Are Facebook Friends Real?

27 02 2014

It’s always wondhearterful to make online connections, especially when you discover kindred spirits. And I’ve been doing that a lot lately. In fact sometimes I feel closer to my virtual friends than I do to some of my real ones. I wonder what that says about our culture when we feel a sense of genuine connection with people we’ve never met.

Many people talk about being addicted to Facebook or Twitter. But it’s not truly an addiction to social media; it’s the connection we crave. Meeting online, reading about others’ triumphs or sadnesses, and having others congratulate or commiserate with us is a large part of our daily lives. For those of us who are introverts, it’s the perfect amount of contact. We can seek out people when we need a bit of closeness, but don’t have to stay for extended lengths of time in awkward social situations. We can take the time to form our thoughts before we post, or if we blurt out something we wish we hadn’t, we can delete it or hope it rapidly will be replaced by another post of greater interest.

We don’t have to listen to bores or braggarts or people whose views we disagree with; we can ignore their posts or even unfriend them. And we can expand our social circles to include people who interest us. We can eavesdrop on conversations, or even offer an opinion on a stranger’s life. In fact, it’s easy to make friends by offering advice or comments on posts by people you’ve never met. It’s also much easier to stay friends when you have time to think or react to someone’s provoking comments. You can gather your thoughts, plan your response, and write a meaningful response. No face-to-face confrontations, angry words, or hurt feelings.

Online you can be ten or eighty, but no one knows unless you post a picture. Even that can be of your best self or a Photoshopped glamour shot. It’s even possible to post a picture of a random stranger. No one meeting you online will know. You can be any race or gender, any size or shape, any socioeconomic group. You can hide handicaps, blemishes, or personality flaws. It’s the perfect place to be the ideal self you always dreamed of, or to try out new personas. To be brave when you’re normally cowardly, to be a jokster if you’re normally sober, to be wild if you’re normally staid, or even to show your true self if you usually hide it. The possibilities are endless.

In fact I’m wondering if we’ll eventually stop meeting in person anymore. Everything from work to schooling to banking to grocery shopping can all be done online. We can order anything we need and have it delivered. The only thing we need now is a way to give 3-D hugs. Hmmm… maybe one of those new 3-D printers will solve that problem.

Virtual Weight Loss

21 08 2012

viewing footballOne of the fun things about being a writer is running across fascinating information. In an article on cognitive science, I read that observing others performing an action fires off the exact same neurons in the observer’s brain.

I guess that explains couch potatoes who watch hours of football. They aren’t as lazy as they appear. In their minds they’ve actually played the game. All the same neurons were firing in their brains as were firing in the brains of the players on the field. No wonder viewers are so exhausted at the end of playoff weekend. And it explains why people pay big bucks to go to sports events or stay glued to the TV during the Olympics–they’re actually performing all those feats in their minds.runner exercising

So that leads to an important question: If neurons do the same work in observers’ brains, couldn’t this idea work well for weight loss and fitness? If I watch hours of exercise videos, will my body soon look like that of the trainers’? Surely someone can figure out the optimum number of hours I’d need to watch to lose, say, twenty pounds. My brain would feel as if I’d done all that strenuous exercise and would trigger the fat-burning processes that go with it. It seems logical that my body would automatically burn the same number of calories as the trainers’ if my mind is doing the same work.

weighing on scale
Maybe scientists should put more research into virtual exercise and weight loss. No need to use guinea pigs. I’m sure there’d be plenty of volunteers for those experiments.

guinea pig