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Does Social Media Create Agoraphobics?

Posted by on Oct 22, 2011
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As some of you know, my grandmother passed away in August. Before she went to the hospital in May, then subsequently to the nursing home, she lived with my mother for many years. Now that she’s gone my mother has pretty much adopted the mode of not really wanting to leave the house except when she absolutely needs something, or if I visit. Basically her life has devolved into a 10-mile radius.

The thing is that my life isn’t all that much different than my mother’s, but for a different reason. In the early part of the decade most of my income came from my traveling at least 4 hours or more from home on a very consistent basis. Now, most of my income is generated from being at home, with the occasional foray out of the area. And most of my life is within 10 miles of my home in every direction.

Social media basically says that you can communicate with people via the computer. You don’t have to go down to the club or to the bowling alley or the bar to meet people. Sure, if you want to have dinner or a drink with others you do, but truthfully you can eat and drink at home and talk to more people in 10 minutes than you would in an entire day if you left home.

For some people that also involves games of all types. How many thousands of games are there on Facebook? I hear that Google+ even has games now. And there are plenty of game sites where people can play against each other and have conversations as well; I do that on two separate chess sites.

Is social media creating agoraphobic people, or has it just enhanced what was already there for a lot of us? Sure, many people still have to go to work every day, but more people are spending time online in the evenings instead of watching TV. They’re talking with friends and family on Facebook or Twitter. More people are starting to stay home on the weekends as well. It was really big when online poker was still allowed in the U.S., and when it comes back (yeah, it’s coming back at some point) those people who haven’t known what to do with themselves will be right back at their computers playing for hours.

Have any of you started feeling like you want to be home more often because of social media? Will you own up to it if you have? lol
 

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32 Comments »

Alice:

Yeah I agree, social media is great and all, but you need to remember that talking to people in person has several advantages over talking by social media. If all you do is talk to people by social media you will lose your real social skills. I do feel that most of the younger generation are lacking in social skills, because of social media and internet in general.
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October 22nd, 2011 | 12:36 PM
Todd Morris:

Mitch,

I’m not sure if agoraphobic is really the correct way of describing it (I don’t think there’s actual fear of public places involved) … but yes, I do agree that the Internet in general, and social media in particular have contributed to less face-to-face interaction among some segments of our society.

Although I’m somewhat susceptible to it myself, I do find it kind of ironic that in a world where it’s possible to have thousands of “friends” from all over the globe, many people couldn’t tell you the first name of someone who lives a mere 3 or 4 houses down the street.

I’m fortunate that my wife is extremely gregarious … so I do know pretty much all of my neighbors. But left to my own devices, I suspect that the extent of our interactions would probably be an occasional wave from the driveway … unless of course we happened to encounter each other on Facebook first ;-)

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Todd, we know our neighbors because they introduced themselves to us. My wife is also gregarious, so I’ve met them all through her. But when we lived in our apartment before leaving here we didn’t know the people across the hall or anyone else on the floor, which I have to admit was kind of weird. You get familiar with a face, but I never wanted it to go any further; didn’t want those neighbors who felt comfortable enough to come over every day.

October 22nd, 2011 | 1:04 PM

I agree with Todd, in that it is not a fear of open spaces (or public places) but more a choice to minimize the ‘noise’ and BS that we are subjected to, on a daily basis.

When I found myself living solo, in March of this year, I started out by turning the TV on (there are three in the house) and then I left the TV off and opted for some music, instead. To be honest, it wasn’t long before all I wanted was the beautiful sound of SILENCE!

I have found in 7 months of being on my own that I don’t have even the least desire to go out, date or even meet a friend for a drink and although there are many people I must talk to, there are very few I WANT to talk to!

I think we have reached the stage where there is so much thrust upon us, that we have tended to shrink away from it, preferring the barrier of our computer screens where we have more of a choice as to what to watch, what to read and who to interact with.

Honestly, I am to a point where I would be happy to never go outside, other than to take Toby (my Boxer/Pit) for a walk, because Toby gives me all the affection and attention I need. See, to Toby I am the world and she is mine.

The problem is not whether computers are making us want to stay at home, but more: who is watching us from behind the web site that we are looking at. (Obviously not you, but those who are trying to control us through our keystrokes).

:)

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

First, to you and Todd, you have the specific written understanding of agoraphobia down but if you look anywhere you’ll find that agoraphobia is the term also used for fear of leaving the home so that’s not on me. lol Of course if you can find a better word I’ll go for it.

Althea, I didn’t know you were living alone; I’ll have to ask you that in email. And truthfully, I don’t actually worry about who’s watching me at websites, or who might be trying to control me. I figure I have enough protection and confidence in myself to not deal with that stuff. Matter of fact I’m working hard to be better known by all through my computer, if you will. It’s just that I’m also recognizing how nice it is NOT to have to leave, even though I do have to leave here and there, and I know if I make it big I’ll have to leave. So it’s not that I don’t want to leave… it’s just that it would be nice not to ever have to leave again.

October 22nd, 2011 | 7:44 PM

I have very similar lifestyle, Mitch. Probably different new ways of communication are helping, but personally for me this is not the reason. Probably, I am too busy, probably the temperature outside is pretty high and I have completely changed my lifestyle from what it used to be as living abroad and most of my friends here are coming and going. Actually I see the same trend with my friends too and most of them also going outside less than usual, may be because everything is so expensive nowadays.
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Carl, though my question was kind of tongue in cheek, truthfully I don’t see my friends as much anymore and I don’t get out all that much either. I need to, and it’s something I have to concentrate on, but I tend to like being close to home. I can’t blame it on social media because I was this way long before social media, as we know it today, came along. Still, I wonder about other people that might start falling into things like this; there are certainly enough stories about neglected children to tell us that it’s real.

Carl Reply:

That’s for sure, Mitch. Well I know exactly what is the reason for this is my case. Work is just one thing, but even if I don’t want to admit, I’ve locked myself and inside myself, probably for good, but I am not sure. To see my friend more often, it is always a good idea, but more and more often I prefer to have beer with my family at home that with my friend outside.

October 22nd, 2011 | 10:59 PM
Mitchell Allen:

Hi Mitch,

To be pedantic, I would agree that agoraphobia is the best word – by default. The same way Kleenex means tissue. In actuality, fear of leaving the house is symptomatic of agoraphobia, since that, as Todd says, is fear of open places.
But, that’s words for you. Agoraphobia has also been used to describe fear of crowds.

Which would make social media the LAST place such a person would want to jump into. :)

Okay, that’s my light-hearted comment for today. Hey, it’s Sunday!

Cheers,

Mitch

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Actually Mitch, I wouldn’t think it would be the last place to go. After all, you let people into your life but it’s more controlled than having to leave the house. A wary person would know how to protect themselves enough to keep from fully being recognized. Sure, wouldn’t work well for business, but Twitter and blogging, if it’s not self hosted… absolutely. A person would have a voice and not have anyone know who they were; I could see that as being empowering.

October 23rd, 2011 | 11:04 AM
Ana @ Bounce Rate:

It is quite interesting how our habitat has become so much smaller, yet we can reach so much further into the big wide world. I revel at it daily!

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

I at least contemplate it almost daily Ana. It’s just so amazing how, with the right words, one can put a message out on Twitter and know that hundreds of people are seeing it, some will share it and some will comment on it. Daunting at times to say the least.

October 23rd, 2011 | 12:05 PM

Social Media had nothing to do with my restricting my activities post retirement. I had to be the sole care giver for my late wife and now to my my 95 year old father. To add to my woes, I am now under house arrest post surgery for a revised hip joint replacement. Social Media has come to my rescue in some ways, but I have grown accustomed to living within my community with the rare outing and am quite comfortable. When one can afford it, why get back into the madness?
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Rummuser, I’m really glad to see you’re back and ready to write once more. You make an interesting point, the one my mother makes, that being you’ve reached an age where you want comfort and social media helps you reach out when you don’t have the opportunity or the wont to get out all that often. Still, it’s so much easier than it was in our grandparents time I figure.

October 24th, 2011 | 8:32 AM

I completely agree with you. This is how IT development influenced on our society, way of living and behaviour, and even on our speech! Of course, there as many advantages, as many disadvantages
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

As with everything Jeanie. You know, people from my generation say that kids don’t get out to play enough and use their own imaginations but I sometimes think it’s some of us middle aged folks who don’t get out enough to play with others.

October 24th, 2011 | 9:55 AM
jlem1125:

There are a lot of social media out there. I myself, is a member of at least 6 social media site. And I tend to stay at home to check on it not because I don’t want to go out, (But sometimes I have the urge to just stay at home and sit in front of the computer) but because I also use it for my online work.
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October 24th, 2011 | 12:42 PM

Hey Mitch,

I found that when I started working from home, in a new city I didn’t know, that I wanted gravitated toward social media to get my need to connect met.

But I’m naturally an introvert and I’m shy. So this was a heaven send for me. Especially when I started connecting with women and I had that time to put together a response that reflected way more of what I was capable of saying than when put on the spot in public.

I’ve since come to the conclusion that you’ve got to be good at both. You’ve gotta be able to be cool online and offline because you’re missing out on a ton if you’re only comfortable with one.

Humans need to be touched and whether that’s your boys giving you a high five or women draping themselves all over you, and everything in between, we need it an thrive on it and the guy/gal who can only rock a keyboard is missing out big time.

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Good stuff Lewis and welcome to the blog. We do need that human interaction in the end, even if we sequester ourselves in our homes a bit too much at times. I think that’s why I like getting out to lunch and dinner every once in awhile, even if the only people I talk to are the waitstaff. Well, I do have my wife at home as well, and we enjoy going out. I think I could easily shrink into myself and social media, and I’ve definitely shown that I can sit at this computer for hours a day. But when all is said and done, it’s not always so satisfying without new people to meet in person from time to time.

October 24th, 2011 | 7:20 PM

Truly say that the social networking is great and all sorts of, but you need to remember that conversing with people personally has several positive aspects over talking by social media. If all you do is talk to individuals by social media marketing you will drop your real social skills. I do believe most of the younger generation are lacking in sociable skills, because of social media as well as internet generally.
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Dona, I can’t disagree too much with your position on younger people and social skills. I wonder often if that’s why their language has gotten more coarse and their conversational skills so lax. After all, if you’re spending 8 hours a day texting or writing cryptic messages on social media platforms, how good can your writing skills get? Not all of course but you still wonder about a lot of them.

October 24th, 2011 | 8:35 PM

Hey Mitch,
I was never a big fan of social media but since I have a blog I have a practical use for it.

The web in general is used mainly by agoraphobics I believe because it allows interaction without having to be in real contact with another.
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October 24th, 2011 | 11:37 PM

I know what you’re saying here.

It’s funny how my world has become larger AND smaller at the same time since I started working from home.

I don’t physically see as many people but through twitter/facebook, G+ and all I meet so many people from all over that I wouldn’t get to talk to if I were still heading out everyday to work a 9-5.

I wouldn’t say I’m agoraphobic, but I will admit that sometimes I tend to shy away from local client simply because I know they’ll want to meet in person and I’m getting pretty lazy and comfortable not having to go anywhere for meetings and such.

So yeah, I’m not sure agoraphobic is the word but I definitely know what you mean.
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Unfortunately John, agoraphobia is the only word we have. And man, am I in the same place as you, but I need to get out of it somehow. I need to find a mastermind group; yeah, right!

October 24th, 2011 | 11:55 PM

It sure helps to keep the flu’ germs away!

:)

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Althea, I haven’t had the flu since I was 16. lol

October 24th, 2011 | 11:57 PM

Mitch, your post reminds me of this commercial:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUGmcb3mhLM

(My wife thinks that’s me, but I know better… right? :D )
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Great commercial Grady. They’ve been hammering on this “older people are active” thing lately, and they’ve been fun to watch.

October 25th, 2011 | 2:40 AM
Allan Douglas:

It’s interesting, Mitch, that you bring this up just now for I’ve been mulling this very topic myself.

I live in a remote area – not totally isolated, but remote. Not counting my house and my Mom’s house, built on our property, there are 4 houses within a comfortable walk where I could go and sit on a porch or at a kitchen table and jaw with friends if I chose to. But I don’t. Why not?
I often use the excuse that I’m too busy, yet I find time for Twitter and Facebook. I excuse this as, “This is work – I’m marketing”.

I used to be involved in a lot of community activities – twice I have won an award from the County for being Volunteer of the Year – but now, if I can’t do it on-line, I’m not involved.

I’m not agoraphobic in the classical sense: I spend a good part of my days outdoors enjoying the views and woodlands, but I do seem to be withdrawing from social situations. I do believe that social media promotes this trend, but I can’t say it’s responsible for it.

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Great stuff Allan. I’m pretty much the same way. Tonight I went to a networking even that I learned about through a local LinkedIn group. After the first two hours I was wishing I was back home on the computer as things seemed to start going a bit long. Luckily there was some stimulating conversation that occurred afterwards but before then I was imagining that I’d have had more fun talking to people online than I was in person, especially since we weren’t talking to each other anymore.

October 25th, 2011 | 9:39 AM
mimi torchia boothby Watercolors:

you know, if you look at a million years of human history, going two hundred miles away from home to do a job is kind of an outlier. Instead, spending most of your life within 10 miles of your home base is actually more normal. even migratory people seldom moved more than 10 miles in a day; any more than that would have been extreme, an emergency.. So while I think the internet is making it harder for young people to learn more social skills, it IS helping us stay out of our cars and off the highways!

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Interesting way of thinking about things Mimi, but I can’t disagree. Before I started working for myself I was driving 70 minutes at a minimum to work then back home again, some days as much as 3 1/2 hours on the road. Those are long days, and of course used up lots of gas. These days if I’m not on the road I might have to fill up once a week; saves a lot of money for sure.

October 25th, 2011 | 1:45 PM