Thursday, December 27, 2012

Is the Internet "the same" as face-to-face social interaction?

I used to claim to think that social interaction by email is not significantly different qua social interaction from face-to-face interaction. But the fact that I typically strongly preferred email interaction to face-to-face interactions is evidence that it's significantly different, and given my introvertive tendencies, it is evidence that it is less social. People like I need significant time "without social interaction" to avoid exhaustion. But writing this post qualifies, even though it is obviously a social activity.

Or maybe it's not correct to characterize introverts as tired out by social interaction. Rather, they are tired out by particular modalities of social interaction. So perhaps there is a response possible to the argument of the preceding paragraph.


Kara said...

I would add social interactions of a listening type, for example, being a quiet member of a seminar or casual conversation group to interactions which are both social and non-exhausting. While being a speaking partner in a conversation takes a great deal of energy, being a listening member, even when listening closely and with consideration to the personalities involved, takes considerably less energy. (This assumes of course a level of comfort with one's ability to be silent without being judged or isolated, which is rare outside of one's long-standing communities.)

Also social interactions with children can (sometimes) be non-exhausting, where one is primarily observing and playing an ancillary role in some child or childeren's preconceived play-drama: from being the "base" for tag, to pushing a swing, to eating a pretend cupcake.

Are their face-to-face social interactions which you would categorize as within the same modality as email?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Not for me: Serious listening takes more energy than (serious or not) speaking, just as serious reading takes more energy than (serious or not) writing. Interactions with children are apt to be exhausting (though of course many exhausting activities are highly rewarding) unless I am talking with them about technical subjects such as philosophy.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

Internet communication and face to face communication are not the same. There are pros and cons to both.

With the internet (I will include E-mail here) the plusses are:

1. Speed. You can communicate with anyone, anywhere at any time. The person can be anywhere in the world.

2. Ease of use. No more laborous writing and typing letters.

3. It is easier to find people with common interests. Just type the subject of interest into google and you'll find blogs and forums to go to.

4. You can really get your hands on all kinds of information and ideas fast and pass them along.

5. If you are an introvert, and I'll place myself in this category too, it may be more comfortable to communicate your ideas.

6. You can edit things before you hit send.

Now for the minuses:

1. You do not have a person's facial expression or body language; therefore there is 50% of the message that isn't communicated. Using :-) or :-( helps but is not quite the same. There is the risk if you are trying to be funny, sarcastic etc., of being misinterpreted.

2. Sometimes in communication, physical contact such as placing a hand on some ones shoulder of giving them a hug if they are having a very bad day, can really convey a deeper empathy and comfort. This is missing from E-mail communication.

3. I remember those times before E-mail, when getting a letter from a pen pal half-way around the world could really be source of joy. It was one of those simpler joys that now seems missing in this world of instant everything.

4. Whatever you put out in cyberspace stays forever in cyberspace and can take on a life of its own. This is still true with face to face communication when one's words get repeated to the wrong people; however, electronic communication alows for faster communication to exponentially higher numbers of recipients.

5. E-mails are never really destroyed when they are deleted. There are always bits and pieces of them existing on some computer somewhere. Therefore, electronic communication can never be like two people sharing confidential info behind closed doors, or shredding/burning an embarassing letter. I remember some priest somewhere toying with the idea of an E-confessional several years ago. BAD IDEA!

6. Sometimes online interactions can remove natural emotional or mental boundaries too quickly between people. Where with face-to-face communications one might maintain those boundaries in a safer manner.