Social Media =/= A Social Life
If I had to give just one piece of advice to men out there, it would be: get more friends. Or nowadays, start getting friends. I see many articles on male depression, male suicide, and the general miserableness of the male sex. Their common denominator is social loneliness and isolation. This isn't a matter of living out in the middle of nowhere—you could live in a huge city and still be entirely alone. And ironically, I believe it is social media (possibly the internet in general) that is often making things worse.
Social media—Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and whatnot—can be a wonderful tool. For introverted guys like myself, it has been a boon for finding and meeting people in real life and even finding work. I have made many "real" friends on social media. But I believe that far too many of us, often including myself, mistake it for the healthy sort of face-to-face social interaction of days past. We feel more "connected," but in reality we remain alone.
For all the importance of social media's "connecting people," when you text or tweet or chat, you are still entirely physically alone (indeed, you may notice you "make yourself alone" even when in a crowd while texting). We are hardwired for physical interaction with people; diplomats of old knew all the correspondence in the world was not as valuable as a single personal meeting or summit. Facebook and Twitter are merely a very souped up version of physical correspondence; it does not and cannot replace meeting with people in person on a regular basis.
Second, social media's availability 24/7 is unerringly deceptive and somewhat nerve-wracking. Time was there were scheduled meetings between people, and you knew when you could reach someone and when not. But when you can always be online? Maybe you'll miss something, maybe you want get to say your piece on some infuriating post, maybe you somehow may find something interesting, and damn it, why is so-and-so not responding to my message RIGHT NOW?
Perhaps most importantly, social media is social interaction that requires the least amount of effort, both physical and mental. The normal rules of patience, of timing, and deference don't apply when you can reply whenever you want. All you do is type at your leisure. You never need to leave you room or make any kind of real effort.
We are physical social animals; save a small minority, most of us crave a certain degree of physical human contact on a regular basis, even if it's only once or twice a week. People like to make fun of the basement-dwelling loser who "hasn't been laid," but I'm willing to bet hard money many of them haven't even had a basic bro-hug or pat on the back. Gestures like that are the sort 5,000 Facebook friends cannot replace.
There's something else, too. Friends you acquire and retain in the "real world" can help you in a million ways. Most people find jobs through friends, not ads. Often they even find spouses. A friend, sometimes more than even a therapist or counselor, can be there to give the small pieces of advice, friendly suggestions, or sometimes the kick in the butt you need to get going. You should have at least four-five people you can call who will physically show up to help you if you need it.
I know all this sounds "obvious," but it really isn't in this day and age. In becoming masters of digital tools, we have lost many of the basic skills our parents and grandparents knew. And men have it worse, because without many of the traditional frameworks that allow us to form friendships (Army, church, sports groups, heck even political clubs), we tend to drift and cut ourselves off. Yes, there are exceptions, but in general women are better at the social game than men. And in many cases the self-imposed isolation is killing men, often literally.
So I say again: if you value your life, not just mentally but also physically, seek out friends and retain them. It'll be hard, and you'll likely make mistakes along the way. But take the risk. Social media is a wonderful way to start the journey, but if you do not move forward from it, you will be just as alone as if you never used it at all.
Leave a Reply.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.