Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Reaction: Online Social Networking Problems

(This post is part of an assignment for the class I am taking, Global Impact of New Communication Technologies at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This week, I will be posting reactions to my classmates' entries from last week -here is my example-)

By Marcie Barnes

Today I am reacting to a post on my classmate Joe Recomendes' blog titled "Ramifications of Social Networking". Joe's blog is dedicated to talking about issues related to social networking online, and therefore his assignment from last week focuses on online social networking sites, particularly Facebook and MySpace. I am familiar with MySpace and can understand how it can be an addictive form of communication for our youth. When I was young, meeting someone new often was followed up by a lookup in the school yearbook. Now, kids can view profile pages that have a theme, possibly a multitude of pictures (and videos), and a list of that person's "friends" - hence the network. I use the term "friends" loosely, because I have heard that many people just try to get as many "friends" on their list as possible, even if they don't really know them. And even then, an online friend is never really a "real" friend. Furthermore, the addictive quality of these sites can lead to health problems associated with spending too much time in front of a computer (more later).

Why is an online friend not a true friend? I won't go so far as calling it a sixth sense, but we humans (and other animals) truly do send of signals to each other that cause us to trust, distrust, like, dislike, etc. Body language is a big part of this. Some people get along with certain kinds of people, it's not an issue of good vs. bad. So, let's say you befriend someone over a connection to a favorite movie or song and your online friendship goes swell for several months. Most of what you have formed about this person is really in your head. Eventually, you decide to meet. The new "friend" is still going to be shiny and new for awhile, everything will seem peachy. However, odds are, if you end up in a situation where you are now (finally) spending real time together, minus the adrenaline (and other hormones that compel you to make connections with other humans) of the initial excitement, that person is going to become annoying when the differences between your perception of them and the real them become clear. It's easy to form a meaningful "connection" with someone (akin to having a celebrity crush) that can become addictive and obsessive in and of itself. And frankly, it's dangerous when this happens with someone you actually have access to. I'll just reference Lisa Marie Nowak as an example, (the astronaut who became obsessed with another fellow astronaut), but I could probably find hundreds more references. Erin Hicks explains this phenomenon very well in her article, "Not love: fallin’ in limerance Part 1". It goes beyond security issues. Be very careful with online communities and communications, and keep your friends close in the real world.

As for health concerns, we all know about the obvious computer-related ailments, such as carpel-tunnel syndrome, back pain, and eye strain. But there's more: concerns about being near a wireless network (low-level radiation) too much, possible blood clots, sleep problems, headaches, and poor attention span (as if teenagers need help with that!) Along the same lines as what I said in my essay about Global Nutrition Communication Issues regarding how we evolved eating "organic" foods, we also evolved walking the land, breathing clean air and getting lots of sunshine. Lacking in these vital human needs, I believe, can cause a myriad of health problems that likely start with general sickness and depression. Thanks, Joe - I think the issues you discuss are very important for today's youth, and more.

Dr. Puja Kazmierczak of the Chiropractic Wellness Studio in Morrisville, NC offered this information and advice: "Sitting is to our spine as sugar is to our teeth ... they both decay the crucial structures of our body over time. In addition, the position that we sit in at our computers, using our keyboards and mouse is the major reason for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in our society not to mention symptomotology that imitates CS. [Also,] simple changes in posture can be devastating for the neurological health of our bodies, as headaches, neck and shoulder pains and subsequent other compensatory pains further down our spines, begin to become evident. Over time people may also experience vertigo, balance disturbances and numbness in their hands. There are simple changes we can make at our work stations…and consider replacing that work chair with a Swiss exercise ball! It's an excellent change for your body's neurology and subsequent health!"

On that note, I am going for a walk!

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