Dr. Goschi's Blog

The Social Network may be an Oxymoron

Watching the movie “The Social Network” has prompted quite a bit of discussion lately. I openly admit that the Internet and the social meetings that occur have brought people together in a way that we would never think possible. Indeed, it seems that “Facebook” can be credited with the beginning of the protests that led to the downfall of the tyranny in Tunisia. The youth shared information with each other over the Internet that would help their political cause. There are many other positive possibilities that have come from socially connecting on the Internet.

I’ve heard stories where relatives from other countries have reconnected with each other. It’s also common for friends to let others know about important upcoming events. Or, even to share photos from important happenings in their lives, like birth of a child or a wedding or anniversary. All great stuff.

Where the social network becomes problematic is when individuals are substituting time spent on the Internet for face-to-face time shared with others. No matter how connected we think we are while on the Internet in reality we are sitting alone at our computers. The social network cannot become a replacement for going out to dinner or spending an evening at a friends house. Social networks also attract those individuals who are too fearful to go out and seek these relationships.

Many an individual has told me that they have 1,000 friends on the Internet. However, when you push deeper you find out that in fact the individual only knows a handful of these people. This behavior seems very unsafe to me. You wouldn’t make friends with everyone you just watched a movie with at in a large cinema. Something has happened to some individuals definition of a friend. I expect that when a person is telling me about a friend it is about another person that they have contact with other than on the Internet through a game or facebook interchange.

For the average person even these brief contacts are harmless because many individuals are capable of accurately discerning the difference between a friend and simply an acquaintance. There is a group of individuals who are predisposed to using the social network in a very unhealthy fashion. These individuals seem to lack boundaries or the ability to make these clear distinctions. These people seem to be using the Internet as a way of filling gaps and holes in their lives. The time and preoccupation with these sites can at these times seem addictive in nature.

Loved ones of the Internet addict don’t know how to pull them back from their new community.  The new social milieu makes the person feel  accepted no matter what they look like, what they may have done in their past, or what they currently are doing in their lives. For these people it seems like they are pulled into a vortex of fantasy that they cannot escape from. I guess what is really happening is that the social network can help highlight pathology or emotional problems in a way that was not possible before.  My best advice to those family members attempting to reach a person who is obsessed with spending time on these social networks or gaming sites is to consider confronting them about their behavior.  Tell them how destructive it has become for not only them but also to those who love them.  If this doesn’t work consider doing an intervention much the same way you would for an alcoholic. 

If you use the social network in a positive, metered  fashion then this message is not about you.  But, unfortunately this is becoming a huge issue for many individuals.  For that group please know that you’re not alone and there is help for you and your family.

Please remember that help is just a phone call away.  Call Dr. Goschi today at (312)595-1787.

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