Monday, February 7, 2011

Social Networking Sites and Relational Intimacy & Connectedness

Recently the film called The Social Network came out, which tells the story about how Facebook, one of the most famous social networking sites, was created and how it has developed and changed over the years. This social network site was created in 2003 by an undergraduate college student named Mark Zuckerberg who was a computer programing "genius" from Harvard University. Mark created this website in order to originally help Harvard students to become more socially connected on the internet through the use of this social network site. Eventually this social network moved beyond Harvard University to other colleges and Universities across the world, and also moved beyond college and universities to include almost any other people group.

In class we are learning about topics like helping people change, providing effective biblical counseling, and helping individuals "connect" on a relational level with not only God, but with other people in their lives as well. The information we've been reading has been teaching us how we as counselors need to create a certain level of relational intimacy and connected with clients in order to truly help them change and be effective in counseling them; and we've also been learning how as counselors we need to help clients create relational intimacy and connected with the people in their lives.

After watching this film, I began to speculate about whether or not social networking sites such as facebook, twitter, or MySpace truly help people connect on a social level to the extent tat they are helpful tools for creating relational intimacy and connectedness. I would argue that in some respects, these social networking sites can help indivdiuals become socially connected on a general level and are helpful when a person wants to keep up to date with friends from their past whom they've lost contact with over the years. These sites can also serve as tools for self-expression as often times they include some type of "profile" that expresses information about an individual's life such as age, school attended, job information, favorite music, favorite movies, favorite books, etc.

While these sites can help individuals with self-expression and connecting on a very general level, overall they are not effective tools for helping people build true relational intimacy and connectedness. In fact, I believe these sites can even create a sense of false intimacy with others as people learn information about another person's life from these social networking sites, and they may not even have a close or connected relationship with them. It also can lead to a false sense of who the individual online truly is, since the personal information about the individual was most likely thought about over an extended period of time and was most likely edited and re-edited to create a profile of how the individual wants to portray him or herself. There is a lack of authenticity and sometimes even honesty that cannot truly be known about the person unless one gets to know that indivdiual face-to-face without a delete key or a long period of time to create the "perfect" answer. Online a person can create and portray the image of who they want to be, not necessarily who they truly are. While social networking sites can be beneficial tools to keep up to date with poeple's lives, and to some extent build social connectedness and intimacy, they cannot serve as a foundation on which to build this connectedness and intimacy. They should only serve as tools to build upon an already existing foundation that was created between indivdiuals through face-to-face, unedited, and authentic interactions.

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