Thursday, April 12, 2012


If a Status Gets Updated But No One's "Around" to Like It...

"We are living in an isolation that would have been unimaginable to our ancestors, and yet we have never been more accessible."
—Stephen Marche's cover story for the Atlantic on misery and Facebook is a great if not particularly uplifting read (share it on Facebook!), although envisioning how the vampire-Jetsons photoshoot went down takes some of the edge off. ("Like this?" "Can you be ... emptier?") The good news, though, is that the answer is and always has been "simple": "The greater the proportion of face-to-face interactions, the less lonely you are. The greater the proportion of online interactions, the lonelier you are." But also: "The more you try to be happy, the less happy you are." And then: "now we are left thinking about who we are all the time, without ever really thinking about who we are." So: day drinks?

86 Comments / Post A Comment

Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood

A: go to internet meet-ups. ill take my byline in the Atlantic now thanks.


wow great advice lol.@a

fuck fuck fuck

is that a standing naked hug? why?


@lighter fluid Nudists?


@lighter fluid Why NOT? The only thing I don't understand is how you can look that sad in a standing naked hug.


@lighter fluid I was very curious about that, too...

raised amongst catalogs

@lighter fluid "Standing up? What? How does that even work?" - Liz Lemon


@lighter fluid Standing Naked Hug is now the name of my new band


@lighter fluid I think the guy at least might be a vampire?


@lighter fluid For warmth?


Didn't we say the same thing about phones when they finally reached nigh-total saturation?


@wharrgarbl But in the case of the phone, it was all true. I hate the phone so much and it has destroyed everything good about our society!!! (I am not even really kidding. I hate the phone a lot.)


"Oh, looking at that cover pic makes me so grateful to have a non-Facebooking, non-blog-reading, non-knowing-what-Tumblr-is boyfriend," wrote Exene in the comments section of her favorite blog.

raised amongst catalogs

@Exene I have one of those, too!


@Exene Ugh. I made my husband get on Facebook so I wouldn't be the only one keeping up with our mutual friends, because I am not a PDA, goddammit, and he spends maybe ten minutes a week on it, so I don't even know any more. Maybe I'll just claim all our friends as mine in the name of Spain.


@Exene I have one of those, almost. He uses Facebook to the degree that it is useful (it's how we reconnected), and that's it. His internet usage is minimal and tailored towards finding out snippets of information. And getting a daily NPR-related email. I respect that.

Also: Your userpic. Yes.

New Commenter Name

I have a husband like that.


@Exene Mmm. my new man is also a non-facebooker. Interesting to see what's ahead of me.

fuck fuck fuck

also: "American Mozart: The Genius of Kanye West." i'm actually going to have to start reading this magazine.


Man I really hated this article and all its melodrama. It felt like an extrovert realizing that not everyone likes to be around people all the time and just being completely flabbergasted. Also he says he knows the difference between being "alone" and "lonely" but he doesn't. Every time someone says that some new technology is ruining our lives, I want to go read some article about how everyone thought phones and cars were the worst idea ever. And have them read this book: http://www.amazon.com/Roads-Power-Britain-Invents-Infrastructure/dp/0674057597


@mackymoo It does happen literally every time. IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD!!! And then usually there are ghost stories about it.


@Megan Patterson@facebook "When Madison got a friend request, she didn't think it was a big deal! So she clicked accept. And that's when it happened. Her timeline filled up with pictures. Pictures of nothing but a hook-hand!" DUN-DUN-DUUUUN


@Bitterblue "When Madison got the friend request, she didn't think it was a big deal. When her new friend started chatting with her every night, staying up late sharing secrets with her, she didn't think anything of it. It wasn't until she told her friends his name that she had any second thoughts about it. 'But Maddy,' they said, 'Mike Travers is dead!'"


@mackymoo I don't know, I think there are a lot of extroverts who find ALL the new technologies really depressing. Like me? I prefer face-to-face interaction over telephones. I prefer a phone call over an email. I prefer an email over a text message.

It's wrong to present it as the concern of ALL OF HUMANITY, which there is some of here, but I think it is a legitimate concern for a lot of people! I'm looking for another job, and I really worry about finding a place where people talk to each other and collaborate. I've had internships where everyone sends emails; I could go more than 5 hours without any human interaction, and I swear to god I COULD FEEL MY SOULD SHRIVELING UP INSIDE OF ME.


@mackymoo That's how I feel about these articles! Every time I read something like this I want to do a rebuttal and say 'Well, that might be YOUR experience, but when I was left in a really hard situation on my own overseas for a year and I just wanted to die, texts, instant chat and emails pretty much kept me alive until I could go home.' And, in general, I love texts and emails and phone calls and facebook messages. Texts are the best because they're most easily responded to. All the others are only annoying if I'm predisposed to feel too busy to respond right away, but I don't hate them. I like that someone contacted me!


@sevanetta Yup! And also, I only see my boyfriend once a week, being able to send each other silly facebook messages and chats makes our relationship not awful. And, slightly different, but I was in China when podcasts became a thing and I swear to god, I think that Escape Pod and TWIT might have actually saved my sanity.

I think the danger of things like this is that it is easy not to notice that you don't have that deep a social network. And I think maybe that's something extroverts are more at risk of? Like, I am an introvert, and I only have so much energy for people. I know that there are only a handful people that I can really count on in a crisis, because that's how many deep relationships I have time to maintain. But the internet also makes it possible for me to maintain more 'shallow' relationships than I otherwise would - with people who would help if I asked, or people like you all, who will listen and help me work shit out. It's also helped me meet people who have since become forever friends. I suspect extroverts are generally more susceptible to the 'broad but narrow' friend thing. Sweeping statements, obviously, but maybe that article needs balancing sweeping statements?


@MissMushkila Exactly! As an introvert, I sometimes wish I could only send emails and never see people. While I'm sure some people need to hear the message in these articles, it really needs to be billed as a sometimes experience, not a universal one. It's like any other substance, some people will abuse it, but most can use it enjoyably and in moderation.

I've moved several times in my life and a lot of my friends moved away after college. I have a lot of friends that I may not call or see in person, but I like to know what they're up to and be able to express the "we may not hang out all the time, but I still like you as a person and I'm glad you're having a good day etc." That is still valuable! Also, CULL YOUR LIST. I only see 20% of my friend's posts on Facebook because I know there are things I don't want to see from some people.


@sevanetta Exactly. Saying "I don't have that many face-to-face friends" is a huge taboo still, but, I don't? Since I moved to a new town two years ago I have not been able to make local friends, no matter how hard I try, so keeping in touch with my old friend groups through Facebook and email has seriously been a lifeline to me. These types of articles always assume the two options are "sitting alone, scrolling facebook incessantly" and "going out and having exciting, satisfying adventures with like-minded bosom buddies" and I don't really think that's a valid way to look at it.

Heat Signature

My experiences with social media completely support the evidence contained within this article. This is why, in part, I'm no longer on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. I am infinitely happier and my life much richer for opting out of social media.


@Heat Signature I agree with you to a less extreme extent. Facebook made me feel horribly lonely when I was in college and just out of college with no full-time job. I would spend too much time looking at my [facebook] friends' lives, which were filled with awesome social outings, vacations, and wonderful jobs, and it would feel excruciating to seemingly be the only one without all that stuff.

Now that I have a job, and several new friends, I find myself spending less and less time posting or browsing Facebook, though I still have one, and still like communicating with my out-of-town friends using it. All the other social media shiz though, I stay far away from. I'd much prefer real life interaction/experiences, even if they don't happen nearly as often.

(Footnote: my Hairpin usage and commentary would indicate otherwise. But this is way more fun and interesting to me, so...)

Heat Signature

@olivebee I have sort of (such an understatement) an addictive personality, and I'm also a huge voyeur. As you might imagine, I found social media to be highly magnetic, and yet ultimately it created so many more problems (largely mental/emotional) than what it was worth. Although I do miss some aspects of Facebook, I find that abstinence works better for me than harm-reduction.


@Heat Signature When I read the following quote in the article, it struck a very true chord:

When I scroll through page after page of my friends’ descriptions of how accidentally eloquent their kids are, and how their husbands are endearingly bumbling, and how they’re all about to eat a home-cooked meal prepared with fresh local organic produce bought at the farmers’ market and then go for a jog and maybe check in at the office because they’re so busy getting ready to hop on a plane for a week of luxury dogsledding in Lapland, I do grow slightly more miserable. A lot of other people doing the same thing feel a little bit worse, too.

Except, you have to change the author's "a little bit worse" to "a LOTTA bit worse" for me. I too describe my personality as addictive when it comes to social media. I finally realized one day that every single time I went on Facebook, I ended up feeling crummier than when I started. I quit Facebook cold turkey almost...3? years ago now, and it was really, *really* good for my mental and emotional health.

Nowadays, I shake my head smugly when I hear about yet another way that Facebook is undermining privacy/selling information about its users/duping people into sharing more than they want to (GP-goddamn-S apps, anybody?! How does that not freak y'all out?!). I guess it's my consolation prize for never knowing where the good parties are any more :).

Heat Signature

@wee_ramekin Your comment made me smile. Thanks for that.

sarah girl

@wee_ramekin Girl, yes. I have gotten a little healthier about Facebook jealousy, although that mainly involved unfriending the people I got the most jealous about...

Part of me wants to quit it cold turkey, but the other part really does like being able to share book/movie/whatever recommendations with a group of people, or share an amusing thing I saw on the Metro, etc etc. Also, event invites (although my core group of friends figures that stuff out through email, thankfully). It's tough, especially in my age group.


@Sarah H. I've become a lot more brutal about who I friend on facebook (only actual friends) and I hide people who make me feel shitty, instantly. But I keep it because it's how I get invited to things. (This is also the reason I caved and got a mobile phone, back in the day.)

I had to quit tumblr cold turkey. It was eating my life. Plus, it was tumblr or the pin, so.... I super purged my twitter, and now it's how I get my news, since I don't listen to the radio or watch tv. I also had to really talk to myself about how it's ok not to catch up - since i'm behind in time zones, by the time I get to pin articles there are already 800 comments on each. I will never have time to read all of them, AND get my work/life done. That's ok. It's a bonus, not my actual life. Hard to perspective shift, but I feel much better for it. I also have to work real hard to make sure that the computer doesn't become my default activity - the first thing I go to after work/in the morning.

Someone invited me to google plus and pinterest today. NOPE, no more. I do not need more.

sarah girl

@Craftastrophies "I also have to work real hard to make sure that the computer doesn't become my default activity - the first thing I go to after work/in the morning."

Woooord. I have struggled with that for YEARS. A lot is related to depression and such, but still. Ugh.

Also, good on ignoring the Pinterest invite! If you have a tendency toward addictive behavior AND others'-perceived-perfection-making-you-feel-shitty, Pinterest is the absolute worst. Luckily I got bored with it after a few days, but man, does it make me feel terrible about my life and my achievements (or lack thereof).


@Heat Signature Oh my god, tumblr. Seriously, I don't think I've ever seen a better-designed timesuck than tumblr. The minute you've reached stuff you've seen before, there's already a ton of new stuff to look at. Never. Ending. I've had to change my password to my Neverwinter Nights 2 CD key just to give myself a fighting chance at actually doing work I enjoy. I've caved twice in as many weeks. Augh.

sarah girl

I just uninstalled the Facebook app on my phone today. It seems minor, but ugh, it's a big deal for me. I was getting so obsessed, refreshing every two minutes, hanging on to every mundane update from people who (on the whole) I don't care about that much. I don't think I'll delete entirely because I do like having people easily accessible and the Events system, but I really want to step way, way back.


@Sarah H.: I gave up Facebook and websurfing for Lent. It was pretty refreshing to be more productive and get out and see my local friends more often.

(Missed you guys though!)


@Bittersweet We missed you too! <3 u Bittie.


@Sarah H. It's kind of sad how hard installing the app would be for me. I went for a few months without an iPhone/Facebook app (was abroad), and the MINUTE I landed home in the airport I took it out and started scrolling Facebook (why, I have no idea). I was thinking, at the same time, "Welcome back to this colossal waste of time" and "So then why aren't I putting it away?"

Sounds so much like addiction. Ugh.

sarah girl

@BoozinSusan Hand to god - I read this comment on my phone (emailed to me), nodded a bit in understanding, then IMMEDIATELY opened up my Apps folder to look for Facebook. PROBLEMS. I'VE GOT THEM.


@Sarah H. It's sad, isn't it. I might follow your lead and delete the FB app (which does NOTHING good!). Solidarity!


@BoozinSusan @Sarah H. DOOOOOO it ladies, do it! I quit Facebook entirely 3 years ago because of similar "addictive" behavior, and it's really hard at first, but then it gets so, so much better.


@wee_ramekin: :-)


The author's bio on Wikipedia strikes an ambivalent note: "Stephen Marche (born 1976) is a Canadian author of sorts."


Also related: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/craig-kanalley/experiment-talk-call-text_b_1418300.html

Made me feel kinda Eleanor Rigby. :(


@tessamae I felt happy after reading that article. Thanks for sharing it, even though it made you feel Eleanor Rigby (yes!)


I'm going on two weeks without Facebook. You know what immediately went up as soon as I let it go? Normalized, one-on-one interactions with the 10 out of 130 people on Facebook I actually gave a shit about.

I mean, it's nice for keeping in touch with people that are impossible to keep in touch with otherwise, but I was starting to wonder why I wanted to bother with keeping in touch with those people at all, you know?

Heat Signature

@shellyp Yes, when I gave up Facebook I realized that everyone important in my life already knew how to get in touch with me without using social media to do so.


@Heat Signature I got asked the other day why I don't list my relationship status on facebook. I figure, if you don't know me well enough to know already, you don't need that information.

Are They Biting Ducks?

Am I an outlier? My social life has gotten a million times better with Facebook. I've reconnected with friends that I wasn't spending enough time with, and that always leads to real-life hanging out. I met the person who's become my closest friend through a Facebook flirtation with her roommate. I've even met genuinely awesome people through Twitter, which has also led to good, real-life friendships.

Facebook. I guess I'm doin' it rong.

Lila Fowler

@Are They Biting Ducks? Same here. As someone who moves frequently, Facebook has been a huge part of my social life. Skype is invaluable as an expat too. It's great for keeping track of old friends and meeting new people abroad. Social media makes expat life way more manageable and social- I love that every time I country-hop, I'm only a Facebook search away from finding a community of English speaking expats.


@Lila Fowler I agree too. I mean, I see the negative aspects of Facebook, etc. and use it with a critical eye... but how else would I stay in touch with my friends in South America and Europe from my time teaching English abroad? I mean, I send a postcard occasionally just for fun, but things like Skype, Facebook, Twitter, etc. really can be great.

Also, I reconnected with my boyfriend on Facebook, and he barely even uses it.

Finally, these articles make me wonder if the author thinks people are purposefully giving up bar nights to just hang around Facebook. Methinks the only people who do that, do it willingly (or their friends suck.)


@whateverlolawants Two of my best friends are people I met through nerdish online activities on Livejournal. I mean, I've knit/am knitting baby blankets for their kids. We exchange presents. I've visited one multiple times even though she lives on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean from me. I feel less lonely when I'm able to talk with these friends over Twitter or IM or Gchat than I did when I went to a concert and nobody talked to me.


@anachronistique Great example! Going to a concert alone can be fun... or terribly lonely. Especially when you didn't think you'd be going alone (cough*BLACKKEYSLASTSUMMER*cough). Maybe four years ago, my sister became close friends with a girl she met on Livejournal. She lived in Texas and would send her artwork and great letters. The girl died suddenly, which was quite hard on my sister. We're still both in touch with the girl's sister via Facebook (and possibly LJ for my sis.) I'm so glad we know her and my sister is still connected to her penpal that way.


@Are They Biting Ducks? I feel great about my Facebook, too. It helps me keep up with my friends who don't live close and inevitably ends to real-life hanging out for me, as well. Given the choice between staying at home and being on Facebook or hanging out with my friends/family, I would ALWAYS choose the latter, so I don't really feel like it is an issue or an addiction that I have to quit. Plus, I do theater in my city and I have found out about almost all of the auditions that I have gone to though Facebook.


@everyone: Same here. I have moved cities twice since Obama got elected (not technically his fault, but a good marker) and I think I would have been a lot lonelier without being able to connect with people on FB. Add to that the fact that I moved a ton during childhood as well, and FB has been unbelievably awesome in helping me reconnect with old friends I haven't seen since I moved away at age 10, 13, 18, etc. I love the ability to have casual interactions with these people, and I wouldn't have it otherwise. That's great that some people live in the same place forever and can just call up all their amazing local friends to hang out and don't need FB, but...I kind of do need it! Also, do these people never change jobs, graduate from school, or lose touch with people any other way? I kind of hate these people now!


@whateverlolawants I'm so sorry about your sister's friend, but it's lovely that you're still in touch with the girl's sister.

dj pomegranate

@anachronistique I've gotten in touch with or reconnected with multiple now-real-life friends via facebook. Yay facebook!

But I can also definitely relate to the feeling of loneliness despite connectivity. Like, I have some good friends who are always on Gchat. WE'RE ALWAYS CHATTABLE even though she's in Mexico and I am not. But we hardly ever chat. And then we see each other in person, it's almost...anticlimactic? But not really, because we are awesome friends! It's almost like absence -- even simply not seeing their name every day on Gchat -- makes the heart grow fonder, or at lease makes every interaction more poignant.

And by this time, seriously. I feel like I have reconnected with the people from my past who were worth reconnecting with. Do I need to see baby updates from high school friends who are never going to actually hang out with me? Nope! Too stressful! Unfriend!

So my conclusion is that it's a Very Good Tool that we should Not Abuse, just like many other things in our lives. If you feel lonely, overwhelmed, or isolated, step back, reevaluate, and carry on in a way that makes you feel better about your life and your friendships.


@Are They Biting Ducks? before there was internet in my life I was a lonely introverted nerd who came home from school every day and read books and once a year had really unsuccessful sleepovers because she always invited people who didn't get along with each other very well. And now I'm a not-lonely introverted nerd who comes home from work and reads books or watches netflix or dicks around on the internet, including messages to friends on facebook or twitter that sometimes turn into plans to get together in person. A lot of things about that girl would have changed for the better with or without all this newfangled technology, but I am certain my social life is the better for it. Especially because I haaaaaaaate phones.

Also, I found this relevant set of quotes from the article: "he concludes that the effect of Facebook depends on what you bring to it. Just as your mother said: you get out only what you put in. If you use Facebook to communicate directly with other individuals—by using the “like” button, commenting on friends’ posts, and so on—it can increase your social capital. [...] On the other hand, non-personalized use of Facebook—scanning your friends’ status updates and updating the world on your own activities via your wall, or what Burke calls “passive consumption” and “broadcasting”—correlates to feelings of disconnectedness."

So...no, facebook isn't making anyone lonelier. Using facebook without actually interacting with people MIGHT make you lonelier, if you don't have a strong network of other social connections. But I guess that doesn't make for a nice linkbaiting headline for The Atlantic.


@Are They Biting Ducks? Yep! I moved back to where I grew up but due to previous job travelling and having friends from everywhere, I now have friends in most Australian capitals and a fair few overseas as well. If I didn't have facebook I would not be able to keep in contact with everyone. And I organise real life stuff from chatting to people online too. One of my closest friends is a guy in NZ who I only met in person for the first time this year, after years of a friendship based on online chatting.


@WaityKatie haha always with the tone of judgement in these articles! that's exactly it - a network of local friends is superior to online friends. except, I moved away from my biggest group of lovely local friends, because they all went to Couple Land and I couldn't go and so I saw them way less anyway. a year later I'm developing new local friendships, and all my closest friends are still in my life, just mostly through texts and facebook.


@sevanetta "They all went to Couple Land and I couldn't go" = awesome. Also, sometimes people don't have time to hang out in person that much, but you can at least keep in touch electronically in the meantime. Facebook helps with that a lot.


@anachronistique Thank you, that really is nice to hear. The sister is such a cool girl and I can't wait to meet her someday. I just wish my sis and I could have met her sister too. She lives on in her sister, the art she made, and the memories so many people have.


@WaityKatie Yup. My best friend just had a baby. She apologised to me the other day for not spending much time with me and I was like... to be honest, I haven't really noticed that much. She's been on chat pretty much every day, albeit intermittently. I still know what's going on for her, how the family is going, she knows my deal. We've both counselled each other through dramas. When things calm down and everyone's sleeping again I'll see her more, but it means we can maintain the strength of our friendship when things are logistically difficult.


Anyone want to be Facebook friends?


@Slutface Only if this is your Facebook user name too! "Slutface liked a post, Slutface was tagged in a photo."

fondue with cheddar

@queenieliz You were poked by Slutface.


A quote from the article: “Forming connections with pets or online friends or even God is a noble attempt by an obligatorily gregarious creature to satisfy a compelling need... But surrogates can never make up completely for the absence of the real thing.”

This makes me a little angry. My dog is not a surrogate for human contact. He's my dog, I love him and I love spending time with him. And I love people, and I love spending time with people, too. When these different forms of interaction - pets, social networking, in-person contact - complement each other, I don't see a problem. They don't have to be mutually exclusive.

And, @ Are They Biting Ducks, I made most of my friends in a new city via Ravelry (~facebook for knitters), so, me too - social networking *has* made my life better.


@themegnapkin Seriously! I'm an extrovert, but geez. I like to interact with people without having to be WITH them sometimes. And my dogs aren't sad substitutes for humans. Hell, sometimes they're better.


I have face-to-face interactions every day with a glass of wine while I'm looking at Facebook.


@leastimportantperson That's a little more than face-to-face! That's the mouth of the glass you're interacting with! *wink wink nudge nudge*


I'm one of those people who would love to give up Facebook but literally CAN'T -- my entire extended family is in Finland, and they've decided Facebook is the #1 best way to keep in touch. If I stopped using it, I'd miss out on hearing/seeing quite a bit of what's going on with them. It's literally the one thing keeping me from deleting the whole damned thing.

Not that Facebook would let me Delete The Whole Damn Thing anyway, apparently they hoard your stuff despite your telling them not to. Or so I've heard.


"But before we begin the fantasies of happily eccentric singledom, of divorcées dropping by their knitting circles after work for glasses of Drew Barrymore pinot grigio, or recent college graduates with perfectly articulated, Steampunk-themed, 300-square-foot apartments organizing croquet matches with their book clubs, we should recognize that it is not just isolation that is rising sharply. It’s loneliness, too. And loneliness makes us miserable."

I'm not sure what this paragraph means, but I'm pretty sure it's an insult. (What is Drew Barrymore pinot grigio? And the steampunk and croquet thing?). Maybe the author was high when he wrote this?


@WaityKatie Seriously. I'm at a loss. And I love weird descriptions.


@whateverlolawants It kind of seems like he worked himself up into a frothy rage, like "ohhh, these single people think they're SO FANCY, with their ACTIVITIES and their DREW BARRYMORE and their STEAMPUNK!!!"


@WaityKatie Sounds like he's just jealous he wasn't invited to the awesome croquet party. Maybe he missed the Facebook invite.


Most of my interaction with friends occurs online. I finished university last year and am living back at home with my parents while working (currently only part-time, unfortunately) to save money. My friends from university and home are scattered across the country. I like my co-workers, but our relationships aren't really friendships yet, and while I do some volunteer work, I don't really get on with my fellow volunteers. My boyfriend and I see each other about once a fortnight. Without the internet (Facebook and LiveJournal, primarily) I would be really lonely; as it is, I get to keep up with my old friends and make new ones without the terror of face-to-face interaction. I am really grateful for it.


This reminds me of an earlier Hairpin post about why Facebook makes us unhappy: http://thehairpin.com/2011/06/facebook-status-updates-or-why-everyone-on-the-internet-seems-happier-than-you

fondue with cheddar



I like how midway through the author refers to FB users being either "extroverts" OR "neurotics." B/c if you're not an extrovert, you must be crazy?


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