Social Animals

It has been a very long time since my last post. I got caught up in seeing clients, research, and life, in general. That "life, in general" part was probably mostly socialising because we are social animals, human beings. Some people would probably say they aren't - they're loners and I can relate. I love being alone, it is quiet and peaceful amidst the noise and bustle of London. Right now, I'm sitting in the sun with a wonderful dog, relaxing as I write this. Yet, people seem pulled to each other. Even most solitary types seek out some companionship. I may have mentioned before that what struck me the most when I first starting counselling was how lonely so many people are. Cliched and cheesy as it is, you can't help but get "Eleanor Rigby" into your head - so true. So many people are also surrounded by friends and family and still feel isolated and completely apart from it all. Not surprisingly but, perhaps underestimated, is the role social media plays in all of this.

A large number of my clients bring social media into their sessions and how it plays into their loneliness. For some, social media helps. As the name suggests, it allows people to connect and feel less alone. Certainly, as an expat, I'm grateful for it. I can stay connected to my friends and Dad back in the States everyday and virtually for free. For many, though, they see other people's rose-tinted lives portrayed on social media sites as truth rather than just a careful scrapbook of best moments. This 'truth' makes them see their own lives as even lonelier and it deepens their sadness or even suffering. Thus, I cannot help but feel upset about the article attached. I have seen how such sites can impact upon how people feel and feel about themselves. Their suffering is real, even if the manipulation they were subjected to portrayed skewed reality. It just doesn't feel right to play around with people's lives that way.

Apart from anything else, this famous site's 'psychological study' had very questionable research ethics. Any respected psychological study in the US or UK would explicitly ask for consent. Even if the participants didn't know if they were the experimented upon or control group, they would know they were in an experiment and consent to it. Even if there was deceit as happened here, consent to participate in some experiment would have happened. Likewise, deceit for something potentially harmful wouldn't really be justified here, as it serves no greater societal purpose. At least, Zimbardo and Milgram could say they had a greater cause.

But, perhaps, I'm missing something?

Facebook Tinkers With Users’ Emotions in News Feed Experiment, Stirring Outcry http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/30/technology/facebook-tinkers-with-users-emotions-in-news-feed-experiment-stirring-outcry.html?_r=0