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The Social Internetwork
[ Issue 125 Page 10 ] Monday, October 21, 2013, 18:18:37 Dongsung Park dstompark@gmail.com
You are in a party with a few hundred people whom you know. Realistically, how many would you be comfortably enjoying the time with? Fifty? Sixty? Now the others; when was the last time you had a lengthy personal conversation? Sadly in the mix, there should be at least a few for which your answer is “never.” Nowadays, socializing has become so much easier through the online medium, allowing for constant connections and easy access, which is great, but occasionally, one cannot help but notice how weightless some of those connections are. Have we traded a few analog friendships for more digital acquaintances?
Nowadays, most people practically have their social resumes on the web for others to see, whether on Facebook, Twitter, Skype, or other social networks. Connecting is merely a click away and instant conversations about the television programs you both watch are available after a short glimpse of the person’s interests, which have been so kindly updated. In fact, you do not even need to be yourself. Before being uploaded, the posts can be proofread with engineered phrases alongside built-in nuances that fits the desired character. However, that is not how it works in person. Walking up to a stranger and taking a blind shot at breaking the ice with nothing but your wit and character can be daunting. If matters can go askew, the stranger could turn out to be your least favorite kind. However, that struggle is why when we find someone who clicks, that person holds significance. When we avoid the awkward introductions and resort to keyboard courting, we are also walking away from the chance to engage in a deeper, personal relation with another human.
By overvaluing online socialization, one misses the offline experience, which is aggravated in the aid of technology. The phenomenon is accentuated in Korean culture, where the internet community is especially well developed. In a family outing, I saw people next to us taking pictures of their gourmet dinners with digital single-lens reflex (more commonly known as DSLR) cameras to upload and embellish their blogs with, and in the time taken to shoot the pictures and upload, the food went cold and the culinary experience they had originally paid for had fleeted away. In essence, the payment was for an opportunity to boast a lifestyle online to those who mostly do not care or relate to, instead of what could have been an otherwise closed and personal interaction with each other, which is ironically the lifestyle they wish to be living. Another example can be given the last time I had a gathering with cousins; eye contact was rare, as they were all busy chatting away with their friends from school. I blame smartphones, as what had been possible in front of computers is now available ubiquitously. While applications like Kakaotalk and Snapchat connects people in distance, it also disconnects people in vicinity.

With the virtual world so closely tied to our lives, one easily forgets the purpose of networking apps and media, which have brought detrimental side effects to socializing. The obligation to please the online population, who have been collected like stamps, prevents us from actually associating with those of immediate presence – the means have overridden the purpose. Present experience dictates that socializing in person and through a web profile differ vastly and that the latter is becoming increasingly more significant in place of the former; we are entering a social internetwork far from the analog, conventional meetings. And much caution must be made to remember; by adhering to the easier, indirect online connections, one devalues the real and more valuable human relations. 

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