Social Networking, Virtual Friends and the Erosion of the Social Fabric of Modern Society
[Ron: In effect, in this article Mike Adams makes a strong case for virtual netizenship being the ultimate Illusion (Delusion) in the dumbing down and enslavement of humanity.]
Sunday, May 24, 2009 by: Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor
(NaturalNews) Social networking is an illusion. The term is almost
self-contradictory, like "jumbo shrimp" or "military intelligence."
Networking on the 'net is, by any real measure, anti-social.
know a young guy who has over twenty thousand friends on Facebook and
MySpace. That sounds impressive at first: Twenty thousand friends? Wow.
Except there's a problem: None of them are real.
any way that matters, anyway. They aren't real flesh-and-blood people
who he's ever chatted with face to face. He doesn't know their real
names (only their screen names) and wouldn't even recognize them if he
passed them on the street (a real street, not a virtual world street).
In effect, this guy who has twenty thousand friends is completely alone in the real world.
has no real friends, he lives in his parents' basement (how classic is
that?) and he rarely leaves his house. He's vitamin D deficient from
the lack of sunlight, socially deficient from the lack of face-to-face
interactions, and even though he has twenty thousand friends online, he
still hasn't managed to find a girlfriend in the real world (inflatable
dolls don't count).
Although this guy is alone in the real world, he's not alone in his pattern of virtual social interaction. An alarming number of teens
and twenty-somethings follow much the same pattern, and the sheer
numbers of people engaged in the seductive pull of online social networking are beginning to define the social interactions of an entire generation.
The more active people are in online social networking, the more isolated they become in the real world.
Online relationships do not replace real social interaction
networking interactions are no replacement for real-world bonding
between friends. Real-world friends build commonality and trust based
on shared personal experiences. Bike rides, hiking trips, shopping
experiences, skipping school, dance parties... These mutual histories
form true friendships based on common experiences that reinforce shared
worldviews, an important foundation for any lasting friendship.
experiences are utterly lacking in the online world. Hurling photos,
movie links and clever chat quips into the vast void of the public 'net
is no replacement for private, shared events witnessed and remembered
with your friend at your side.
This is why the internet, while it appears to be connecting us, is actually driving us apart.
We are friends online but strangers in the street. We live in boxed
houses, year after year, never even knowing the names of those souls
who live right next door. We stand in line at the grocery store like
automatons, afraid to make eye contact with anyone other than the
cashier, for which eye contact is "safe" -- but only at the appropriate
moment, after the previous customer has cleared the space and handed it
off to you.
The people who physically live closest to us are, in
reality, our greatest strangers. We don't know their interests, their
favorite bands or recipes, or their intimate secrets. Those details are
more readily shared online, usually in an attempt to replicate the
feelings of intimacy and bonding where no such bonding is realistically
possible. A stranger on the 'net who knows your deepest desires is not
necessarily your friend, even if they follow you on Twitter. They might
just be some future stalker.
It this age of great digital
connectedness, we increasingly find ourselves clinging to illusions of
intimacy, adrift in a sea of anonymity, surrounded by the great
faceless, nameless masses from which no commonality can be extracted.
In many cities, the mere act of attempting to connect to a
member of these great masses -- "Hi, what's your name?" -- is perceived
as an act of aggression or mental instability.
Many of the most prolific internet
users are ironically more alone today than ever before in the history
of human life on our planet -- alone in an age of great connectedness,
where words can leap across the planet at the speed of light, where we
can broadcast video from our desktop, or podcast audio from our cars,
or communicate with millions through the tapping of our fingers on
We have every astounding achievement of
communication that has ever been invented at our disposal... and yet,
wading through this deluge of digital communications, most of us have yet to find any real meaning in life.
The medium of the internet, it appears, cannot yet encode and transmit
the essence of the human spirit; nor love, compassion, empathy or
Google has spidered over eight billion web pages,
and indexed each one, and displayed them as results in hundreds of
billions of user searches, and yet not once has Google transmitted love or friendship or understanding. It is outside the specification of digital information.
The shock of seeing real people
Much of this duality between the virtual world and the real world
became suddenly clear to me recently when I hosted twenty-five NaturalNews
readers at a conference event in Vilcabamba. It was astonishing at
first, to see these readers -- who had until that point been only
virtual "friends" -- set foot on my land, in flesh and blood, and share the same personal space. (Not "MySpace" but "my space.")
shared a "group juicing" out of my garden; we breathed the same air; we
lavished in the same sunshine and listened to the same singing of the
birds that populate the bamboo forests surrounding my yoga room
People who once existed to me only in concept were suddenly being,
in person, face to face. And from that, we were able to grow closer
over the two-day seminar, coming to appreciate and trust each other in
a person-to-person way that simply isn't possible across any
And to them, much the same experience was
happening. The Health Ranger -- an online personification of a
theoretical individual -- suddenly became real to them, too, almost
like turning the pages of a pop-up book and discovering a real person
walking off the page and into your living room.
The fact that
this experience was noteworthy for all of us is, in itself, a
disturbing commentary on the state of internet social interaction
today. We think we know our virtual friends (or celebrities), but we really don't.
We don't know each other until we meet in person, and even then, our
experiences of each other are often filtered through the thick haze of
preconceptions acquired from virtual contact on the 'net.
The balanced use of the internet
believe the internet has tremendous potential for uplifting human
civilization. It is obviously a tremendous medium for transmitting
knowledge, for aggregating the wisdom of many and for bridging the
cultures of the world.
But if the internet is used as a replacement for real human interaction
it becomes a hindrance to human progress. An entire generation becomes
lost in the virtuality of fictitious spaces and make-believe
friendships. Connection with the real world is lost, and netizens,
glued to their virtual worlds, eventually find themselves utterly
incapable of existing outside their fabricated,
These people, in a very real way, become domesticated. In exactly the same way that a domesticated dog cannot survive in the wild, domesticated humans cannot survive outside the manicured mazes of concrete cities and fiber optic data pipelines. They almost become a new race of people -- Homo netizens
-- with soft fingers and skin unable to wield simple tools; with pale
skin unable to bear sunlight; with a complete inability to recognize
and name a single food crop growing in a farmer's field. These Homo netizens
The problem is that none of
these things are real. One moment without electricity and their entire
universe collapses into nothingness. One cut of the fiber optic line
and those twenty thousand virtual friends vanish in an instant, to be
replaced only by the bitter loneliness of an empty room, a disheveled
bed and a hunk of useless electronics on a decrepit desk.
have ventured into their own imaginary worlds and created fictitious
friendships, fictitious personalities and in the case of MMORPGs, even
fictitious, thriving economies.
Keep it in balance
you want to see an amazing demonstration of social networking insanity,
take a teenager who's immersed in the internet and make him go camping
in the woods for 72 hours, with no laptop, no PSP, no electricity and
no mobile phone for texting. The kid demonstrates a kind of
biochemical, brain-busting withdrawal that's eerily similar to someone
coming off a bad crack habit.
I don't say this in jest: This is
a very real phenomenon that alludes to the depth of the behavioral
distortions created by an unhealthy attachment to online social
networking and online gaming.
What we are collectively
witnessing with all this is the drowning of a generation of people in a
world of delusion, devoid of real meaning, abundant only in its ability
to trigger the brain into believing some real connection is taking
place. Online social networking is the social equivalent of playing
slot machines in Vegas -- it preys upon the behavioral "addictions" of
people who come to depend on a repetitive, fabricated stimulus that
ultimately delivers nothing of value in the real world.
There's nothing wrong with a little online networking if it's pursued within the frame of having a real life, with real friends in the real
world. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and online gaming can be experienced
responsibly by those able to maintain balance. The danger emerges when
people allow their lives to become immersed in these virtual realities
at the expense of abandoning their existence in the real world.
we choose to use social networking sites, we must strive to keep our
lives in balance by remembering the real, physically-present people
around us. And parents must be especially vigilant to avoid losing
their children to the seductive pull of online worlds that far too many
children and teens secretly wish could replace their real lives.
into imaginary worlds can be a wonderfully entertaining and educational
experience. Just don't forget to come back to the real world.
About the author: Mike Adams is a natural health author and
technology pioneer with a strong interest in personal health, the
environment and the power of nature to help us all heal He has authored
and published thousands of articles, interviews, consumers guides, and
books on topics like health and the environment, impacting the lives of
millions of readers around the world who are experiencing phenomenal
health benefits from reading his articles. Adams is a trusted,
independent journalist who receives no money or promotional fees
whatsoever to write about other companies' products. In 2007, Adams
launched EcoLEDs, a manufacturer of mercury-free, energy-efficient LED lighting products that save electricity and help prevent global warming. He also founded an environmentally-friendly online retailer called BetterLifeGoods.com
that uses retail profits to help support consumer advocacy programs.
He's also a successful software entrepreneur, having founded a well
known email marketing software company whose technology currently powers the NaturalNews email newsletters. Adams also serves as the executive director of the Consumer Wellness Center,
a non-profit consumer protection group, and regularly pursues cycling,
nature photography, Capoeira and Pilates. He's also author of numerous
health books published by Truth Publishing and is the creator of several consumer-oriented grassroots campaigns, including the Spam. Don't Buy It! campaign, and the free downloadable Honest Food Guide. He also created the free reference sites HerbReference.com and HealingFoodReference.com.
Adams believes in free speech, free access to nutritional supplements
and the ending of corporate control over medicines, genes and seeds.
Known as the 'Health Ranger,' Adams' personal health statistics and
mission statements are located at www.HealthRanger.org