Yet Another Facebook (and MySpace) Story: Sorry Substitutes

Newsweek is reporting that one in four Americans feels lonely. Sad as that is, widespread use of smart phones and MyFaceSpace aren’t helping matters much.

Social-networking sites like Facebook and MySpace may provide people with a false sense of connection that ultimately increases loneliness in people who feel alone. These sites should serve as a supplement, but not replacement for, face-to-face interaction. For people who feel satisfied and loved in their day-to-day life, social media can be a reassuring extension. For those who are already lonely, Facebook status updates are just a reminder of how much better everyone else is at making friends and having fun.

There are many people, and even more in the ad biz, ready to say Facebook is the bomb. It’s not the bomb, and no, you and the brands you work for needn’t be there or be square. In fact, just the opposite is true. If it’s cool you’re after, try being present. It’s hard, but it’s real and real is the old and new cool.
I have a massive online network thanks to this site, Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Flickr, and so on. But it doesn’t mean much until I convert ambient acquaintances into real friends, however casual. Let me give you a concrete example. No freelance comes to me via my online network. None. It only comes from people who actually know me. So the value of my online network is this: it helps me get to the place where I want to meet people, and they me. In other words, social media’s value is not as rich as some would have you believe. And social media street cred isn’t bankable. You can’t walk in to Safeway and pay for your groceries with social capital. At this point in time, Safeway only takes cash or credit. What’s my point? My point is hype runs wild on the Web, it’s the idea virus’ virus.
If you’re feeling alone, it might be because you face-planted into your screen years ago and haven’t bothered to look up in way too long. But it’s okay. Export your contacts to a printable form and start seeing the people on that list in person.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.