Saturday, November 3, 2007

artificial intimacy

I just read this news article about how Twitter (some thing involving text messaging to strangers; I don't fully understand it) is being used to post about relationship problems, depression, suicidal thoughts, etc. Which means, of course, that people are getting all kinds of unexpected help for all those things.

The big news story is how some kid was prevented from jumping off the Tallahassee bridge (writer's embellishment, but there actually was a bridge involved) because his Twitter community saved him.

Anyway, some woman wrote an article all about the dangers of Twitter, and how it creates "artificial intimacy." And yeah, yeah, it's sad that the Twitter people have to reach out to strangers, and no, no, of course those exact same people won't be there for them through thick and thin. But who cares? If something with a name as stupid as "Twitter" is acting as an impromptu volunteer crisis hotline slash daytime soap opera, then what we have here, people, is civilization at its finest.

I have a soft spot for stuff like that. There's a part of me that will never forget what it's like to grow up in a pre-internet desert (both literal and figurative). Isolation does strange things to you, like drive you to attend art shows at the mall. This kid who tried to off himself eventually realized that he didn't want to die -- he just wanted to get the hell out of Florida.


Andy Schmeder said...

An autistic can experience stress relief from a jacket that is too small -- an "artificial hug". The primordial brain can't tell the difference.

Social networks in general (online or off) are already considered a simultaneous source of stress and support, so the answers are not necessarily straightforward to begin with.

This is an active topic of research in social psychology, which is where I would look to for an objective analysis of its effects.

Oh, and in my experience Florida is a place best avoided. :)

Audrey said...

As your internet friend who has never actually met you, I must say I completely concur. You can twitter me any way you like, baby.


Paige Lomas said...

Twitter??? I just got used to blog and I finally feel confident sending text messages...geez! What is the next "new thing" that I will have to file in my brain? And to Andy, I have an autistic child in my class, he loves his daily "squeezes" with the old rolled up gym mat. I did some empathy training with my other students...non-autistic kids like mat squeezes too!