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Dr. Ruth on . . . Social networking—making friends in person and online

Created date

March 30th, 2009

Social networking is a phrase that is bouncing all around these days. An activity that might once have taken place over the backyard fence now seems to have developed into a multi-tentacled monster that only the young can manage. Of course, that s nonsense you don t have to know how to Twitter or have a Facebook page in order to stay connected. On the other hand, you also shouldn t just throw up your hands when it comes to electronic means of connecting because you might find some of these new pathways for social networking to be quite useful and a lot of fun. First, let s face an unavoidable fact: there are a lot of older people who are lonely. When you re a teenager in school, you know what seems to be an endless number of people, but for some, as the years go on, that circle becomes smaller and smaller. Sadly, some people sit alone in their home seeing nobody for days on end. Whether you ve got what can seem like too many family members and friends or not enough, having social networking skills can help you cope. And all these new-fangled ways of reaching out can make it a lot easier for those who seem to have difficulties maintaining personal connections. First let me dispel a myth, the one that says that you can be too old to learn how to use the latest technologies. I just heard the story of a man who took a class in computers and left confused. He called to say he was willing to pay for a one-on-one lesson, but that he was a hard case because he was 79. When the instructor showed up, he turned out to be 85, so that took away the hard case s main excuse! And that s the main point about successful social networking don t give up. You can t sit by the phone or the keyboard or the backyard fence and hope that someone will just pop up. You have to actively make connections. It s through other people that you meet new people, which is why it s called networking. One last point that I often say to people looking for a romantic partner, but applies to those just looking for friends as well: If there s some activity taking place near you if you have an interest in the subject matter you ll get something out of going even if you don t meet anyone. And if you get yourself out of the house often enough, I guarantee you that one of these forays will also spark your social networking engine.

Dr. Ruth Westheimer is an author, lecturer, and the relationship expert on RLTV s Daily Caf .