The Downsides of Social Networking

A few months ago when I convinced my then girlfriend to join Twitter, I never imagined that I’d regret it so much. Twitter is a “micro blogging” social networking site. The premise is that everyone is answering the question “What are you doing?” Each user posts whatever he or she desires as long as it does not exceed 140 characters. As my high school friends describe it, it is “the website version of Facebook’s status update feature.” When I joined, no one else I knew was a member so I talked my significant other into signing up. After she joined it became an easy way for us to share websites and funny pictures we stumbled upon on the internet. I was aware of all the seemingly insignificant but often hilarious things happening at her workplace. She gained knowledge of my constant frustration with the movie studios and classmates.

Several months since, we have broken up; we attempted to stay friends post-break up despite my better judgment. I have read enough of Dan Savage’s columns and listened to enough of his podcasts to know that it was a terrible idea. I should have followed your advice, Savage, you know everything. We started talking less but were essentially still dating. I guess we were in a “breakship” as I have heard it be referred to. It was a state of transition between romantic relations and platonic ones. It was essentially a prolongation of an already painful break up. Twitter and Facebook and Blogger were the worst part of it.

We started talking less so the majority of updates I received about her life came from social networking sites. First, they were fairly insignificant. Then, they started to annoy me when I realized that she was already trying to meet other people and start dating again recently after our break up. It stung. She even met a guy that she was planning a date with on Twitter (the website I introduced her to!). I was here still sad over the dissolution of our year long affair and it seemed as if she was taking it just fine. Now I know for a fact that she was not but the lack of tone of the internet would have never conveyed that to me. I realized that I cannot escape knowing these details of her life because I’m a follower of hers on Twitter, a friend of hers on Facebook and a subscriber to her blog. The easy solution to my problem would be to just stop associating with her on these sites but I can’t. We agreed not to be hostile and that seems like a hostile gesture. People do not just de-friend each other, there is always some serious reason if you would stop being someone’s friend on Facebook. It means that something was royally messed up because a Facebook friendship is the lowest common denominator of human relationships. Ending that with someone means that you really want nothing to do with that person.

Another problem that people see on social networking sites is invasion of privacy. People fear that through tools like, other people will be able to see their private profiles. For other people, this is quite very alarming.

So what’s the solution? Do I just delete my accounts on these websites? That seems a little extreme. Do I opt to date someone less tech savvy next time? Of course not, we would have next to nothing in common. It seems as if I am stuck receiving these details of my ex’s life even though they sometimes annoy me and sometimes enrage me. Sometimes they also make me smile. We have since agreed to have no contact so we can move on from our romantic history and the only time it seems we say any words to each other it’s an 140 characters or less @reply. The ability that these sites give the users to spread information is a kind of a double-edged sword. You have to accept the information being fed to you about the people you follow on Twitter whether you like it or not. You cannot selectively receive information. You cannot filter out the tweets about your former lover’s new interest despite maybe wanting to sometimes.

Normally, I scoff at members of the older generation who fawn over how great and easy it was to disconnect from the world before the internet and mobile phones. I would always reply that it is still just as easy to disconnect but today, I realized that there maybe some truth to what those Gen-Xers were saying after all. Maybe we are all so hyper connected that cutting off contact with the world is nearly impossible.