As the Arts Council’s new communications manager, it is part of my job to publish Facebook posts about all things art. Because of this, the cover article of The Atlantic’s “Culture Issue” (May 2012) stood out to me in a big way. In the article, Stephen Marche delves deep into the alleged connection between Facebook and loneliness.
When I first took the magazine out of my mailbox, my heart sank. Questions began popping up like so many Internet ads. What if it’s true? What if my posts make people feel lonely? Or worse: What if my job is sending me adrift into a sea of loneliness?
Luckily, the conclusions drawn in the article aren’t nearly so dire.
True, as the article points out, in the ever-expanding world of social media, our personal and professional networks are growing wider, but more superficial every day. But it also proffers a way out of this isolating (non)feedback loop: stop the passive use of Facebook, which at best has you clicking “like,” and at worst amounts to hours of glassy-eyed browsing.
As Marche suggests, and as I’ve long suspected, communication is the key to happiness. And when it comes to interaction to stave off loneliness, quality is better than quantity. The article even reports findings that there seems to be a significant difference between “one click” interaction and more involved outreach attempts like individual message sending. The more personal your interactions, the less loneliness and depression were found in subjects.
Like much in life, you have to give to get. Contribute to your community through Facebook and you’ll not only have better mental health, you’ll also be participating in the ongoing weaving of fibers, the very warp and woof of the community as it evolves in the age of social media.
Therefore, join the conversation (or better yet, create one) by making a comment, sending a message, or best of all, attending an event that was published. In doing this, you’re breaching the gap between a purely virtual, online world, and the “real” world.
Facebook is just another tool, not a replacement for living life. Sure, use it to touch base with friends and to find out about what’s happening, but then peel yourself away from all the screens in your life and participate in the real world! I’ll see you out there.
Amanda May is the Arts Council’s communications manager.