Social networks have been around for hundreds of years. Social networks using the internet are a new fad and seemed to make sense. Most require you to gather a group of people, share some common interests and then comment on each other’s happenings.
I deactivated my Facebook account this week and deleted the companion app from my iPhone. Twitter doesn’t have a ‘deactivate’ feature–only delete–and I’m not ready to make that decision yet. Twitteriffic is gone from the iPhone too.
I realized that the constant exposure to other’s lives through social network sites left me feeling empty. I had subcontracted human contact to Facebook and Twitter, allowing to maintain the illusion of ‘keeping in touch’ without touching anything.
One example is my friendship with [Matt](http://kerner.net) and [Sarah Kerner](http://beautyschooldropout.net). I know so much about what goes on in their day-to-day life through Twitter that my urge to talk to them on the phone fades. Instead, I want know them by fixing a dinner and spending a few hours talking about what’s been on the smoker lately or a frustrating knitting project of Sarah’s. When I follow them on Twitter, it replaces the desire to call, write or just talk. That means fewer in-person social investments and pretty soon, we’re friends that “drift apart” and no one can understand why. I want to change how this makes me feel.
That’s not to say that Matt and Sarah are doing something wrong. They socialize in a way that makes them happy and fulfilled. I needed to step away from the all-you-can-share social buffet because it was empty calories for me emotionally. I felt like I was fed, but I really wasn’t. At my age and life experience, I’ve learned to assign value to relationships using many factors, but the physical interactions seem to have the most currency. Sharing a beer on the deck with my neighbor makes me feel very connected to him and his family, even though we only talk a few times a month.
Following friends and family on Twitter keeps me very *informed*, but I don’t feel *connected*. I can’t see the pain on a friend’s face when they talk about taking a pay cut to keep a job. I won’t hear the rest of the conversations about bills, extra jobs or being out of ideas to make things work. How will I truly know that someone is reaching out for help.
Living relationships are not maintained 140 characters at a time. I’ve stopped pretending that it could work. Take a look at your life and see if the same is true for you.