This may seem like a dumb question today in the age of social networking, but give it a thought. We are on Facebook and Twitter a lot, post status updates every half-hour (or every minute, for all I know) tweet every interesting piece of news we come across. But how many of us actually spend time getting to know our friends, family, social circle? Do we take the time out to bond? Or is that restricted to the daily tweet and SMS culture we have embraced?
A recent survey indicates that the average American’s social circle today is smaller than what it used to be, but the reason for this cannot be attributed to the internet. In fact, in a contradictory finding in the same survey, people active on online social networks were more likely to engage in volunteer activities, and visit places outside their immediate neighborhood. However, the same set are less likely to know who their neighbors are and to offer them companionship.
Also, another trend that may be significant is the fact that fewer respondents were likely to make friends outside their peer and interest group, meaning that diversity in viewpoint which is a key factor in maintaining social balance has come down. All these have far-reaching implications for the future. With fewer friends and a homogenous environment, social growth could be stifled.
The users of mobile phones and those who share their photos etc online are more likely to connect with others socially, but interactions again seem restricted to the phone or internet. Our capacity to make close friends has also been affected. People today have fewer close friends than they did, even as the level of exposure of personal life to the outside world has increased.
With technology slowly reaching a point where the individual needs are met to a large extent in the comfort of your home – telecommuting to work is only the first step – the quality if not the level of interaction has definitely gone down. Conversations are now all typed out, and even calling a helpline will mostly lead us to an electronic voice. This is likely to take it to a point where all of us are enclosed in our own cocoon living our own version of the world – remember Neo in The Matrix?
So will society as we know it continue or cease to exist, with all of us in our own little capsules? Time will tell.