A Human Connection

Contrary to what the amount of caffeine in my system dictates, I can’t help but stop and allow myself the brevity of a short pause’s worth of contemplation. It occurs to me that, much like the way I am now sitting in front of my lap top, (writing this post for your reading pleasure), engaging in some specific form of interaction with whoever reads this blog, there are millions of people scattered throughout the face of this planet, doing the exact same thing, and more than likely in a much more direct manner than I am doing right now. I can’t help but think that, not only are there millions of people out there doing the exact same thing, but the amount of time for which they have been doing the exact same thing is also more than likely a longer period of time (and I mean much, much longer) than the time I have taken typing this post. Surely, even as I finish typing this post and prepare for the day ahead, those same millions of people that were on their internet-accessible devices, interacting with other millions of people, will continue to do so and remain in that state for even longer periods of time.

So then comes the question: What is it about this entire meta of online social interaction that keeps us plastered to our seats, uploading the latest pictures of last night’s crazy shindigs or waiting for someone to respond to our posted frustration of “Fuck doing lab reports”? Why are we so preoccupied with letting the hundreds of friends we have on Facebook know that “I just drank my tenth cup of coffee and I am so wired!”? But most importantly, why must we do it so often, and for such extended periods of time?

Well, after careful consideration, I managed to construct a hypothesis of my own that, in a very subtle way, coincides with a couple articles I was able to find online. It is my hypothesis that, we are so attached (addicted if you will) to online social interaction because ultimately, as much as we love to deny it, we seek to make a connection, a human connection, with others. We hate to admit it, but we love the attention that we are given when someone responds to even the smallest aspect or details of our life – that is, the parts of our life that we willingly decide to portray on the web for the viewing pleasure of well, everyone.

It sounds simple, I know, almost too simple, but I believe it is true, or at the very least it is a major factor behind the reasons why we spend so much time on online social websites.

According to this rudimentary study on Facebook addiction, my suspicions are not unfounded. Although the conclusions drawn from this study are phrased differently, they intersect, even if only casually with my own hypothesis. Basically, if we were to categorize the people that we can say are addicted not just to Facebook, but to online social networks in general, we would find a distinguishable pattern among this group of people. Things like a connection to neurosis and extraversion as mentioned by Dr. Andreassen and colleagues, as well as its prominence among individuals of a young age.

All of these things can be ultimately tied in to our constant need of attention and our need to distinguish ourselves from everyone else. We strive to make a human connection because well, we are weak and frail creatures that need to feel a sense of solidarity with the people that form part of our lives and more. We gain a sense of satisfaction and reward when someone comments on, or “likes” something we post. It’s arguable, but the truth is that the great majority of us wouldn’t be able to live without that connection, that feeling that assures us of our existence and relevance to other people’s lives – that feeling that we are sure is keeping us sane. And therein is the irony of our lives: that the very concept we created to maintain our sanity is the the same thing that is driving us to our insanity.

So that’s that. Why do you think we are so attached to the online social network enigma? Rain your thoughts on me.

Also, ladies, I found this interesting article online that you might want to check out. I can’t wait to see what you think about that.

8 responses to “A Human Connection

  1. I found your article on women being more likely to be addicted, if you will, to Facebook and other social media sites to be very interesting, and eye-opening. I wonder if women’s tendency to be avid social media users originates from many women being stay-at-home moms who do not get a chance to connect with people as often in person. Whatever the cause, I’ll have to make sure I don’t fall into the social media “addict” category!

    As far as your statements about humans craving human interaction/connection as a reason to be so very involved in social media, I will have to disagree partially. Yes, I do agree with you that humans are social beings and need to interact with other humans regularly, but I do not agree with the idea that social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) with in a computer/phone/etc. is considered a “human connection.” You are not physically seeing another human being, not physically interacting with another person, and thus are not able to make a human connection. All the connecting is done through a computer screen, where you are interacting with the computer, and not necessarily another person–your friend’s name may appear on the screen, but you never really know who exactly you are connecting with.

  2. I think this really just comes down to validation. We want to be accepted by other people. We want to fit in. We want to belong.

    It’s much easier to get that sort of validation online where a simple ‘like’ on a status can be enough to give you that small boost. Especially when your audience is your hundreds of Facebook friends, posting a status reaches far wider than your own little personal group of friends, which probably consists of like ten people or so.

    In addition, since you can select what is posted online, you can control how others view you. Even if you only go out, say, once every couple weeks, and spend the rest of the time walled up in your mom’s basement, if you post pictures from the debauchery that happened during those nights, you can be seen as some party animal rather than the basement dweller that you really are. And of course, letting other people perceive you as that is a sort of validation that you are just as ‘cool’ as they are.

    In the end, we just want to be validated by others and liked. Since we get to re-create ourselves online, it can be easier to make yourself seem more likeable.

  3. I found it extremely interesting that researchers are actually creating scales for facebook/social media addiction. It is easy to see how these sites are creating problems. For example, you walk into any lecture hall on campus and look around the room, there will be a good number of students on facebook instead of paying attention. I think it all boils down to what some have mentioned earlier, it is a need, not a want, for human interaction. Look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In the order of importance, the list of needs goes: Physiological (breathing, food, water, etc.), Safety, Love/Belonging, Esteem, Self-Actualization. To feel loved and have social acceptance is ranked right after being able to survive and being safe. It is crucial for humans to make connections, it is a need.

    I agree with the fact that we are weak creatures who need approval from people, even if it’s an attempt for approval by our hundreds of friends on facebook. I know for me, I am so excited when someone “likes” my status. Could you imagine how people would really start reacting if there was a dislike button. I think that facebook will never create a dislike button. I say this because it would cause so much drama! If you post something and 100 people like it but one person dislikes it, you would only focus on the one who dislikes it and call them out on it. I think the people who operate facebook know how people “need” in a sense to have their posts liked and the good feeling it creates. It would probably be counteractive to facebook and turn people off of facebook if people could dislike it.

    Also, kellitrimble, I disagree with you when you stated that social networks/computer communication are not human connections. Yes, there are situations of people who create false profiles and you may think you are talking to your friend, but you are actually talking to another person. However, unless you are talking to that creepy artificial intelligence thing, you will be talking to a human. That counts as human connection. Would you consider sending someone a letter in the mail human communication? Technically, you are not talking to someone face to face by writing a letter either. Also, in most cases, there is verification you are talking to someone you know, not some random person, because of the conversations you hold. A random stranger pretending to be someone will not know some intimate details of your life that a close friend would.

  4. While I can’t help but agree that people have a constant craving for connection via social media these days, I can only wonder what we did as humans before those online connections were an option—because surely the instinctual needs of our species haven’t changed in the last several decades. Therefore, I must assume that the internet has not created needs for connections within people, but merely created a new avenue through which we seek validation and acceptance.

    For instance, I don’t believe that people who can’t, or have chosen not to, expose themselves to the world of social media have those same requirements for attention online; rather, they probably seek that attention elsewhere and in arenas with which they are acquainted, such as the classroom, their home, the in-person social scene, etc. In this way, the generations before us acted, seeking a human connection wherever they could; but I imagine the need for a human connection via social networking sites occurs when the person is first emerged in that world.

    Are we weak and frail as a species because we cling to such traditionally impersonal means of connecting with others? Or are we such slaves to the online world because the more time we spend in it, the less connections we have in the real world?

  5. I think your explanation of social network addiction does make sense: the argument that humans are a social species is supported by the evidence that humans have, across time and space, come together to form tribes, societies, and other social groups. However, I’m not sure it fully explains this intense “need” so many people claim to have for online social interaction, or why this need is more evident in teenagers. I agree that most of us need to feel socially connected at least some of the time, and that this does have positive health outcomes, but up until recently, we’ve always been able to achieve this connection without the Internet, and I’m confident we still can today.

    I think jabong1 (Jeff?) makes an important contribution to your idea, which is that we crave validation. This may explain why young adults use social networks more than adults, even as adults are beginning to understand how to use such technology; young adults might be less settled into, and confident in, their identities, and seek validation of their lives–in the form of “likes” and comments–as interesting from our peers.

    This idea also explains why people are willing to trade in the arguably deeper, more truthful, and more long-lasting social connections that can be made face-to-face for the often superficial and somewhat deceitful interactions that occur over Facebook and other social media. As Jeff said, “it’s much easier to get that sort of validation online,” and “you can control how others view you.” In order words, “likes” can be collected much more quickly than compliments in face-to-face interaction, especially when users are consciously controlling the image of themselves they are presenting in order to maximize their likability.

    When I had a Facebook, I know I felt pleased with myself whenever I posted a popular status update or picture, and I definitely refrained from posting content that would make me seem uninteresting.

  6. I completely agree with your hypothesis that we want to make connections with other people and our social networks and other ways of doing so are easier today than ever. I think that it enables us to connect with more people faster and more often and I don’t think that it is necessarily a bad thing. Of course, all situations are different and of course if someone is “addicted” to Facebook then yes that does constitute a problem. But for the lay person I think that it is a tool that makes life easier and more engaging. New mediums that are becoming easier to use, such as video chatting allows you some face-to-face interaction with people. I often video chat with my grandparents who live in Michigan. I haven’t seen them in person in I think 5 or 6 years but I am still about to connect with them over video chat. And of course as for the comment about Facebook, I defiantly think that the response we get from our friends/followers can affect us in a negative or positive way, but again, I don’t think it is a bad thing. I think that a lot of things that we do in life are used to promote ourselves and get feedback from others. For example, most people don’t go to college to just go to college, they go to get a degree that will be used later to get a job from something that is basically saying that you are now worthy to work for me because you have a degree. So we often do things to get feedback/attention from others.

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