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Linda Hamilton

Director and Developer, www.thanknest.com

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Is it possible for us to use social networking, that which makes us feel so disconnected, to reconnect again?

I recently watched a TedTalk by Professor Sherry Turkle who discussed the ways in which technology is making us feel more and more disconnected. Professor Turkle suggested a way to combat this was through having more real life conversations. But how do we compel people to want to have real life conversations, over the desire to feel connected (or disconnected as it seems) using technology?

What if social networking allowed us to feel truly valued again?

I recently developed a website - http://www.thanknest.com - and since launching I have found that when people are appreciated with a sincere and specific thank you message, this compels them to want to reconnect in real life with the person who is thanking them. They say "let's get together", "let's catch up", and "let's get coffee". When you thank someone and tell them what you like about them, you make them feel good about themselves. People want to have more meaningful bonds with others, and want to spend more real-life time with people who make them feel good, & with people who truly value them.

Is it possible for us to use social networking, that which makes us feel so disconnected, to reconnect again?

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  • Sep 11 2012: Social networks are a good meeting point for people. But a relationship or relationships can not blossom to its full potential if people do not take a step further by setting up a meeting and getting to know each other one-on-one.
    Social networks are prone to so much pretending and hypocrisy; and someone presenting himself or herself as a human right activist or a lover of pets may be a fraudster. So, even setting up a meeting should be done with caution.

    But if there are people who are sincere and are of like minds they can meet on social networks and take their relationship to the next level. Thinking good relationships can be built and maintained on social networks alone is like thinking that superman, Batman or Megamind have great powers as in the movies.
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      Sep 12 2012: Thank you for sharing Feyisayo. Yes, human contact is so iimportant... this is, as you say, because social networks are prone to pretending or presenting your ideal self! We have the time online to read something, think about what to say, & then write it in some cases better (& more succinctly) than we would probably say it.

      Meeting in real life determines whether a relationship can go to the next level... are they in real life who they claim to be online? If yes, then a wonderful relationship can follow.

      Good relationships can be built & maintained online - but great relationships are fostered through real life interaction.
  • Sep 11 2012: I don't think social networks are real networks. At most they are nothing else like the common white pages, just filled with pictures and information you probably never wanted to have about these people. Just that you can "add" someone easily does not make any difference insofar, that people still live their lives mostly besides each other, but not together.

    So most complaints about "people hide behind digital walls and have no real contact" is nonsense, because they never had these contacts, so they can't lose them. What did people do before facebook, who had a pen pal on the other side of the globe? They wrote them a letter, probably phoned them and met each other one time in life during holidays if they had the money (and really wanted to meet in person). They do the same on facebook, but they do not lose something.

    In my opinion, the real contact frequenzy did neither increase nor decrease, as the need for social contact is a fixed number for each individual. Just having a couple of people you "could" meet, does not mean you "want" to meet them, nor that you gonna turn out to be friends. It can happen that you just discover you do not like this person to hang around with, once you met him or her in reallife.

    Most social networks are in the same league like contacts with strangers in a bus, with whom you talk about the weather and never meet again. Does anyone complain about that, that you do not seek contact with people you sit next to in a bus or train?

    The only problem is maybe, that people tend to paint images of the past with brighter colours. If we used to be so socially skilled, how comes that there have been so many wars? And nowadays, were we shall be social zombies, the crime rates go down. This may be just one aspect of it, but i think it needs to be looked at too. The past was not really better or of better quality in social interactions.

    Instead of that, todays technology allows it to stay in contact with loved ones more than ever before!
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      Sep 12 2012: Thank you for sharing Lars, I definitely see your point.

      For the majority of online networks, they are not real networks, they are numbers... but it's for those others that we stay connected. Those people who lift you up, who you lift up, who value you, & you value them make you want to further your online & offline relationship with them - to show them your flaws & know that you will not be judged.

      Yes I agree that you may discover upon meeting an online friend that you do not get along well after all !!And then on the flip side, many true & wholesome relationships have been formed through meeting initially online. I have many friends who have for example, married, or are together with someone they met online (& they are still together after many many years - longer than others who met in real life). They connected online over common ground, and found that their real life selves were as common as their online selves (& both were sincere real people).

      And yes, I have to agree - most contacts are just like chatting with a stranger on a bus!! It is a fleeting discussion in time... or sometimes even being ignored!

      There are definitely negative sides to technology (& places that foster those negatives)... & then there are the positive sides as well (with some places helping to foster those positives).

      :)
  • Sep 11 2012: Hi Linda
    Thank YOU for creating thanknest.com!
    I too have created a website to help real people build real communities. Civic networking, if you will.
    It's thedotchannel.com. Let me know what you think.
    Cheers
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      Sep 12 2012: Cool name! I just checked it out... it is a great concept. I have joined - what I would like to see is that I can connect to people internationally as well as to people in my city. Someone in another country would be able to create a video for my purposes if it is a broad concept (e.g., saying thanks!)...particularly at the beginning when you may have 100 members who are unable to connect with each other because they are all from different cities.

      I look forward to watching your site grow & I think charities/schools/colleges would love this idea too... once you have some videos added it will start to spread well.

      I wish you mcuh success

      Btw - let me know what you think of my site!
      • Sep 14 2012: Hi Linda
        And I wish you much success as well!
        Btw I sent an email to admin@thanknest.com. I hope you got it.
        Cheers
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    Sep 11 2012: I just met someone here on TED that I will be meeting in person!!!


    Why do people go to TED conference?
    Why do people go to Las Vegas and got to these conference?
    Why couldn't they just they do it online with web cam HD?

    Because nothing replaces human interaction.

    It requires both both person sitting each side of the table.
    I need to look at your eyes to trust.
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      Sep 12 2012: Thank you for your input Steven. I agree, nothing replaces human interaction... to see their smile, to hear their laugh, to see their facial expressions when you engage, to hear them talk, & to see their eyes - when you meet someone you connect with online, you want to spend your real life time (your precious time) with them. When you find people who you can do this with, you make a real connection & add value into your life.

      Thank you for sharing... can I ask, will this be the first time you meet someone in real life who you have met online?
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    Sep 11 2012: The emergence of social media was from that need....I mean connecting disconnected people.

    However , need to think a bit ....do we need social network to be connected with our next door neighbour? How much we are connected to our neighbors even....H

    ow much we can be connected with in family even if all are busy on their own social networks through devices they have ?
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      Sep 11 2012: You bring up some interesting points Salim, thank you for sharing- "do we need to be connected with our next door neighbour" - probably not, but can be nice to connect with them face-to-face & online too!

      Do you connect with your neightbours or family online?
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        Sep 11 2012: Thanks...
        Yes I do but mostly when I am unable to interact with them in real.
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          Sep 12 2012: Me too... and I also interact with them online as a way of saying in that moment - I'm thinking of you :)
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    Sep 11 2012: Get real friends? lol

    But in all honesty, those people on Facebook with 1000+ friends can't possibly spend time with all of them.

    "Is it possible for us to use social networking, that which makes us feel so disconnected, to reconnect again?"

    Dat irony. But yeah, social networking is a tool. And just like any other tool, it is the user who should control the tool, not the other way around. And the tool of social networking is to connect with other people. If we ever felt disconnected, it is probably because we weren't using the tool "correctly."
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      Sep 11 2012: Thank you for sharing James - yes, you are right... it is not possible to spend time with 1000+ friends... Dunbar's number suggests between 100 & 230 is about the limit - http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/mar/14/my-bright-idea-robin-dunbar

      Lol, yes ironic isn't it - & I agree with you - social networking is a tool which can be used to connect people - many of whom would never have had the chance to connect if it were not for this tool (e.g., specialist groups from around the world connecting via a common interest). What do you do to use this tool in the 'correct' sense?
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        Sep 11 2012: yeah 100-230 sounds about right in terms of how many people I really spend the most time with.

        Basically, the tool should not be used to when you have so many friends, it gets to the point where you have almost no friends. Friends should not be devalued because of a tool.
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          Sep 11 2012: I think you make an important point - "friends should not be devalued because of a tool" :)
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    Sep 22 2012: I study the nature of human relationship and recently came across a book by Dr. Ester Sternberg, titled, "The Balance Within." Sternberg writes about the science connecting health and emotions. Chapter 8 of the book is "Connecting to Others" and it deal with the way others, our social connections, play a role in our well being.
    Sternberg discussing the obvious, that without social contact we can become lonely and depressed. Children especially need nurturing connections, and deprivation can cause grave problems for the child.
    With the advent of electronic devices, we have been peeling back the rich layer of close physical interaction that we need. An email or texting cannot relate another person's facial expressions, body language, or tone and inflection. Increasing, what is missing in these interactions is the original meaning of the word; action between people.
    Of course, these devices can serve as a bridge between the times we are not physically present, spending time with others, but Turkle is saying that we are increasing conditioning ourselves to be isolated and insulated away froom others altogether. We are afraid of "intimacy."
    I will suggest that the TED Talks by Brene Brown can help us to understand some of the reasons for this. We are afraid to be vulnerable, and we are ashame, and so being vague in our communcition, and not present, is where we are safe.
    Oddly, Sternberg does go on to explain in some cases the distance that devices create can be a way to address some of these same issue. In cases of people with autism, computers and virtual environments are a way for them to gain training and to learn social skills. But the goal is always to reconnect, face to face. It is how our brains are designed.