Social Interaction in the Age of the Internet

While the global messaging possibilities made available by e-mail and Internet access can put us in touch with fellow humans the world over, many of us are finding ourselves left feeling lonely and isolated by the rush and brevity of electronic exchanges.

Furthermore, the anonymity of chat rooms, and e-groups can lead to a tendency to embellish the truth, or even invent a different identity altogether, with many chatters around the world re-inventing themselves from their income to their vital statistics up. In some cases the difference between invented Internet personas and the factual truth of an individual can lead to unwelcome self-concept issues and further social withdrawal as the Internet image pulls from social reality into an isolated realm of keyboard, screen and preferred self.

Get Real

Paul receives a text message from a friend saying “how r u?” He’s having a bad day, he’s worried about his father and he’s stressed at work, but what can he really say about that on the keys of a mobile phone? How much more supportive and sustaining would that same message be if it had been spoken to him directly with a warm and interested tone of voice?

All too often we are running around “asking” without asking. We may ask another how they are, technically speaking, yet the enquiry has no more depth or value than an initial “hello” and will inevitably invoke the anticipated brief and standard response. . . “fine”. It would be rare to hear the truth, “I’m stressed” or, “my cat died”, or “I’ve got a raging headache”, yet many of us are walking around just desperate to reveal that truth, and to express our feelings to the willing ear of another living, breathing human being.

A dash of interest can be a real tonic

Our fast-paced lifestyle and entertainment choices are leaving us out of touch with ourselves, and with each other. We flop out in front of the TV at the end of the day, we meet up with friends and then go to a place that is either too loud to hear each other, or too dark to see each other. All too often we find ourselves sitting next to a friend, but taking interest in the faces of people we will never meet in some fictional encounter on a cinema screen.

To live, to really live, as in feel alive and vibrant, we need to regain an active spirit of human interest, we need to get involved in the process of life, in the details of the lives of others and we need to seek social antidotes to the intimate, yet meaningless, relationships we are having with computers, televisions and mobile phones.

Human Investments, Human Returns

Paying attention is an investment. Listening, enquiring and exchanging, are the active currencies of real human interaction, and such an investment brings rapid priceless returns. A socially satisfied human being is one who can cope well with the demands of a fast paced life without feeling that it might wash them away.

Ananga Sivyer is a contributing editor and health consultant for LifeScape magazine and the author of the self-help workbook: The Art & Science of Emotional Freedom

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