Learning How to Socialize Online

Food for Thought @ H K Wonton Garden

I met Michael through Facebook. It’s rare to make new friends on Facebook, but it does happen sometimes. At first, we connected through philosophy and art, but I learned later that he too is a foodie and know a lot about where to eat in Queens. We had a great dinner and conversation last night at this Chinese restaurant in Chinatown that Wendy @wendalicious888 recommended.

I don’t use Facebook much anymore. Because it’s a social media designed to replicate the real-life network, it’s convenient for staying connected with your brick-and-mortar friends, but not for making new ones. The problem with a real-life network of friends is that the reasons for connecting are too disparate. They are filtered more by arbitrary limitations than by choice, like whoever happens to work with you, know your existing friends, meet through your kids, and so on. If you write about something specific, like about a restaurant in Queens, 90% of your Facebook friends would be bored. Your content would have to appeal to the lowest common denominator, but you cannot make friends by talking about the weather.

Instagram and Twitter, on the other hand, are social networks you build online first. Because the pool of potential friends is massive, and because there are many ways to slice and filter them, you can easily find friends with highly specific criteria. But navigating this overwhelming number of possibilities is not easy. It’s a social skill that many people, particularly of older generations, have never acquired.

Many parents today are scared of social media, and tell their kids to stay away from it, because the parents themselves are socially inept online. They are like autistic kids who never learned how to socialize and are afraid of meeting people face to face; the only difference is that the situation is reversed. They are autistic online.

I encourage my kid to explore social media as much as possible. She is 14 now and doesn’t need much privacy yet, so I can provide guidance even when something bad happens. Early teens is the perfect time to teach kids how to socialize online. Not being able to effectively socialize online would be a massive disadvantage for these kids.