Monthly Archives: February 2009

Social networking: Diversion during a down and out economy

Out of work? Join the crowd. No really. Join the crowd. Online. It’s where we’re all hanging out. 

According to a report earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal, surfing the net is how we’re keeping ourselves busy, occupied and out of trouble.   

It also keeps us from going off the deep end. 

The article quotes a psychologist who contends there is evidence that Internet games, blogs and social networking sites provide a “psychological benefit because they prevent a downward spiral of rumination.” In other words, it keeps us from drinking ourselves into a stupor.     

Here’s why I think this article is spot on:  Social networking is the lifeboat on a sinking ship for me. To the critics who suggest I’m wasting my time or avoiding reality, I say: Aren’t you lucky to still have a job to go to everyday.

Just as people flocked to the movies during the Great Depression, today’s out of work workers are flocking to the Internet. They’re doing it for a number of reasons but mostly because it’s so damn diverting.  Last week, I spent an entire day writing “25 Random Things About Me.” I admitted to the world that I go weeks without changing the sheets on my bed and that I’m addicted to scratch tickets.  It was absolutely cathartic. Who needs a therapist? (Hell, who can afford one?) I may have avoided looking for work that day, but no way was it a waste of time. It lightened my mood and energized me. Sometimes, you just have to know when to escape. 

Probably more important, the Internet keeps me from feeling isolated. From the minute I was laid off nearly two months ago, I was communicating with co-workers and friends who were in that sinking ship looking for a life raft, too. Because the company cut off my networked email, the only way I had to communicate those first few days was through Facebook. It’s how I found out what was happening; how I found out about others who had lost their jobs, too. It helped diffuse anger, fear and helplessness. 

A bond was formed during those first few weeks and that connection sustains me day after day as I build a business while looking for full-time work. It’s like a support group.

Social networking allows me to socialize with more friends more often, sometimes on a daily basis. The first thing I do in the morning after pouring myself a hot cup of tea is check my Facebook news feed. It’s like meeting my girlfriends for breakfast. 

Could I go out? Go to the movies like they did during the Depression? Sure. And I do. Social networking is just a different kind of diversion. 

I agree, what we do with our day is much different than what we would have been doing 10 years ago or 70 years ago if we found ourselves out of work. Are we better off because of the Internet? For me, I don’t know how effective I would be with out it. Searching for full-time work, building my content development business, writing my blog and doing volunteer work keeps me busy, but it would be a lonely kind of day with no one but myself to talk to. I need the social interaction that the Internet provides. And, frankly, I’m grateful for it. 

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