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The Daily Tar Heel

Here we are at the end of the year, and while there is a wealth of topics to consider for my last column, I feel I must be rather old-fashioned today and criticize our culture’s current obsession with “social media.”

And I’m okay with being old-fashioned on this particular issue. Because as college students, we are nothing if not social.

We are surrounded by thousands of peers, we take pride in a work-hard, play-hard balance, and we become very upset when New York Times reporters criticize the quality of our dating pool.

But if we really stop to think about it, what are our best moments with friends?

If you’re like me, your best memories include meaningful conversations, weekend parties and impromptu lunch dates.

In other words, they include spending time with actual people, not staring at a computer screen and pretending to laugh out loud.

In the interests of honesty, however, I must admit that I am sadly not immune to the seductive power of virtual contact. I have spent far too many hours waiting for Facebook to tell me my picture upload has been a “Success!” and I don’t see myself deactivating my account any time soon, if only for the neurotic need to feel “connected.”

So who am I to criticize the social networking revolution?

Don’t sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter serve a unique and valuable role in promoting understanding between different people and cultures who never would have met otherwise?

Well, I can’t be sure.

All I know is that I am hit with a pang of embarrassment when I look at UNC’s home-page and find convenient links to Facebook, iTunes, Twitter and YouTube right next to the “Administration” heading.

It’s the same kind of mild embarrassment you feel when someone wears four-inch heels to a 9 a.m., or when Regina George’s mother in “Mean Girls” offers to serve alcohol and says that she’s a “cool mom.” It’s just trying too hard.

And I suppose this is my real problem with the recent explosion in social networking’s popularity.

Facebook was cool when it was a college phenomenon taking over the world, but now that everyone’s mother, grandmother and employer is enthusiastically logging on and posting pictures of children’s birthday parties, it’s just … lame.

The middle-aged masses have colonized our Facebook, and they have killed it.

But at least Facebook is still more “social” than “networking” for now. The worst of the social media sites has to be LinkedIn.

On LinkedIn, there’s not even the pretence of actual human connection; exploitation of other people’s contacts and shameless self-promotion are the name of the game. Although, again, I am guilty. I have succumbed and created an account, because UNC Career Services tells me I need to if I want to be successful.

Still, I haven’t brought myself to actually create the profile or start “building my network” yet.

Again, sorry to sound old-fashioned, but all of this “new media” makes me want to go back to the old days.

Maybe we didn’t have virtual poking back then, but we did have eye contact.


Olivia Blanchard is a junior English major from Atlanta, Ga. Contact her at

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