Some youth rethink online communications

Some youth rethink online communications (AP)

CHICAGO – For some, it would be unthinkable — certain social suicide. But Gabe Henderson is finding freedom in a recent decision: He canceled his MySpace account.

No longer enthralled with the world of social networking, the 26-year-old graduate student pulled the plug after realizing that a lot of the online friends he accumulated were really just acquaintances. He's also phasing out his profile on Facebook, a popular social networking site that, like others, allows users to create profiles, swap message and share photos — all with the goal of expanding their circle of online friends.

"The superficial emptiness clouded the excitement I had once felt," Henderson wrote in a column in the student newspaper at Iowa State University, where he studies history. "It seems we have lost, to some degree, that special depth that true friendship entails."

Across campus, journalism professor Michael Bugeja — long an advocate of face-to-face communication — read Henderson's column and saw it as a "ray of hope." It's one of a few signs, he says, that some members of the tech generation are starting to see the value of quality face time.

As the novelty of their wired lives wears off, they're also are getting more sophisticated about the way they use such tools as social networking and text and instant messaging — not just constantly using them because they're there.

"I think we're at the very beginning of them reaching a saturation point," says Bugeja, director of Iowa State's journalism school and author of "Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age."

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