A week ago, I introduced the cover story in the current edition of The Atlantic by Stephen Marche entitled, ““Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?”” (May 2012, pp. 60-–69).


As part of his presentation, Marche incorporates a longitudinal study by Moire Burke.  At the time of her study, she was performing graduate work at the Human-Computer Institute of Carnegie Mellon.  The study involved 1,200 Facebook users tracked over time.


Drawing from Burke’’s research, Marche highlights a fundamental dynamic about using Facebook:


“”[Burke] concludes that the effect of Facebook depends on what you bring to it.  Just as your mother said: you get out only what you put in.” (p. 66)


Isn’t that like any other area of life?  You get out of it what you put into it.  If you want to be a passive observer, have at it.  Just understand you will only be observing.  On the other hand, if you want to be a thinker and a doer, then you cannot just observe forever.


What all that tends to translate to is the difference between those people who engage in “composed communication” versus those people who engage in “passive consumption” and “broadcasting” (p. 66).


Composed communication means you are typing out more engaging, meaningful, personal responses to your friends as opposed to just clicking the Like button.  This is generally more satisfying to all parties.  Passive consumption and broadcasting mean you are mainly scanning what everyone else has posted and perhaps doing some occasional general posting.


Burke’’s research suggests a correlation between passive consumption of Facebook and a marginal increase in depression.  Marche describes the negative experiences of passive consumption:


It’’s a lonely business, wandering the labyrinths of our friends’ and pseudo-friends’ projected identities, trying to figure out what part of ourselves we ought to project, who will listen, and what they will hear.“(p. 66)


Much more could be said here, but the bottom line is:  Mother was right.  You get out of Facebook what you put into Facebook.

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About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Johnson Controls at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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