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Posted at 3:58 PM ET, 02/ 9/2011

Shyness: Can Facebook help?

By Michael S. Rosenwald

As social media grow, so does the debate over whether they are actually useful. Some experts maintain that all the new technology we've absorbed in recent years is just making us more lonely. Sherry Turkle, an MIT scholar, makes that case in her new book, "Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other."

But there is some fascinating new research showing that for shy people, Facebook is allowing online connections that may help their offline relationships. Among the shy and the psychologists who help them, Facebook is seen as one of the most important developments in decades.

We are seeking to speak with shy teens and their parents about their Facebook use. Does it help with shyness? Or is just another crutch to avoid people?

Please email Mike Rosenwald.

By Michael S. Rosenwald  | February 9, 2011; 3:58 PM ET
Categories:  Build-A-Story  
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If you're interested in Sherry Turkle's Alone Together and how technology isolates us, you should check out the short film Do Not Disconnect on YouTube.

The short indie is about a girl who tries to break out of a world where everyone is plugged into their headphones. A world with no interaction.

Please take a few minutes of your time to watch it.


Posted by: DoNotDisconnectFilm | February 10, 2011 6:47 AM | Report abuse

Facebook is a pale proxy for actual meaningful face-to-face social interaction. It is a tremendously gratifying tool for narcissistic Gen X/Y twits and Millenials who have been brought up to think that their daftest thoughts are worth "sharing" and "liking."

Facebook encourages you to "reconnect" with people you historically associated with in various institutions and organizations whether or not you have a lick in common with them.

In my case, many of the (junior Gen X) people I grew up with are insufferable sententious yuppies fighting the onset of early middle age and popping out kids like Pez dispensers. I don't need a constant feed of their tiresome drivel about their t.v. habits and "baby bumps." I need an anti-Facebook with people who are actually interesting. Occasionally provides a version of that.

Facebook is a fad; however, it will be a fairly persistent one. Its creators are clever enough to design all kinds of mechanisms that encourage compulsive, and in some cases addictive, behavior.

(I wish we'd hear more about truly consequential studies coming out of MIT but that's probably too much to ask from journalists and English majors who are allergic to hardcore science.)

If Facebook represents the best that the "Web 2.0" and "social media" hype-mongers could come up with, I can't wait for the technologically-enabled hell that lies ahead.

Posted by: FedUpInMoCo | February 10, 2011 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Errata for the above anti-Fb screed:

"Millenials" => "Millennials" (sp.)
"twits" => "dimwits" or "pea-brains" (diction; take your pick)

Posted by: FedUpInMoCo | February 10, 2011 5:19 PM | Report abuse

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