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PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 2:50 pm 
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I read this article the other day, and I can't stop thinking about it:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/05/is-facebook-making-us-lonely/8930/


It made me wonder if I'm retreating a little too much. I've never really gotten along with most people here in Stepford, but I used to try. I find that in the last couple of years (after finding this site and others that I really connect with), I am much less willing to try and get along with people. It's gotten worse since I stopped working in December. Part of it is that I have the patience of a 2yo, but part of it is knowing there are people like you all out in the world somewhere. How can you tell (when you're an introvert) when you've retreated too much?


Anyway, I thought the article touched on some interesting ideas.




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PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 3:26 pm 

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Over the years, my friends from high school and college have either moved away or just drifted away. Outside of high school and college, I find it very difficult to forge friendships especially deep and meaningful ones. I have many acquaintances, but I find it hard to really hard to become close to people. I am worried about being lonely for an extended period of time, as it may cause great psychological and physical deterioration. You know you've retreated too much when you spend the vast majority of your time outside of school or work alone. Wherever you go, whether traveling, eating out, shopping, etc. You are alone the majority of the time. Furthermore, you just feel depressed and a sense of alienation from society. You feel as if you are a spectator in the background as the majority of people around you socialize.


Most people are just lucky to happen to be able to come across other people with whom they click with and with whom they are on the same wave-length. I find I just don't really click with most people. I can't really just force myself to click with other people. I just have to put myself out there and hope to find other people that mesh well with me.




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PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 4:22 pm 
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I found that article too and have the same fears.


I have never liked Facebook, as it allows people (mainly extroverts) to think they are socializing when they aren't. Introverts don't get the same feeling from Facebook because we like a few close friends, while extroverts (the current dominant train of thought in society) are ok with lots of shallow friendships or what I would call aquiantences, but not friends.


Of course, my loneliness fears are not just because of Facebook. I tend to pull away from society too much, as jenny noted she does. Unfortunately, I don't know when it's "too much." Though, I think I have gone too far.


I am starting to force myself to make more of an effort and get back into things I used to enjoy (sports leagues, martial arts, etc.) when socializing was easy (school and entry level job with all the other recent grads).


My real issue is that I'm single and all of my really good friends are married. This reduces the amount of time they want to get together. I completely understand that, but it still leaves me more time alone than even an introvert wants. Thus, I need to figure out a way to find a few single friends.




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PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 5:13 pm 

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A related article in the New Yorker on the disconnect and associated literature:


http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2012/04/16/120416crbo_books_heller?currentPage=all


There are social forces at work here and I wonder how much making contacts/friends vs. withdrawing is really effected by an individual's initiative and choice. These things seem to depend more on environment and chance. It's certainly healthy to keep open, active, and bearing goodwill, but I don't see how relationships can be forced or engineered out of whoever is at hand. And not all contact is good contact (there's an understatement), so I don't worry about it overmuch.




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PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 6:05 pm 
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I'm not saying it should be forced, but that I should give myself more opportunities for it to happen.


I would also note that ERE is limiting socially, which is one reason I don't go quite as extreme as some do.




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PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 6:27 pm 
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Great article, jennypenny, thanks for sharing!


I'm almost never lonely when I'm actually alone. It's when I'm around other people - physically or virtually - that I sometimes feel lonely. And when that happens, it's usually because I somehow feel left out, or that I'm missing out. Over time, I've come to realize that's my insecurity talking. It's really nothing to do with where I am, who I'm with or what I'm doing.


I read a quote from a psychologist once who said, "Some people mistakenly believe that their loneliness is the product of another person's absence." It took me a week to really comprehend the truth of that message.


My favorite quote from this article:


"Not only must we contend with the social bounty of others; we must foster the appearance of our own social bounty."


I agree. I don't think Facebook creates loneliness, but I think it will exacerbate loneliness and discontent where it already exists because people disproportionately post the positive things that occur in their lives on Facebook, and sometimes when you're going through a rough patch in your own life it makes you feel like everyone else has it together and you're the only one who doesn't. It can also create jealousy and/or discontent, and I believe the posters do that intentionally sometimes. I have a couple of Facebook friends from whom I have unsubscribed because every single post seems to have an underlying message of, "I'm now telling all you Muppets - again - how wonderful my life is. As my Facebook friend, it's your job to comment below on how cool my activity of the day is, and how jealous you are, and then to ask me to describe the whole experience in more graphic detail below so you can emulate it/me. FYI."


As to living more IRL and narcissism, I am much happier when I take time to serve others. It's so easy when you're in the rat race, raising a family, to get to a point where your life and your problems are the only thing on your radar. Volunteering is great for reminding yourself that you are not the center of the universe, that other people are hurting and in need, and that you are vitally necessary because you have time, talents and in some cases money to give. I don't serve anywhere near as much as I should, and frequently get lost in the sea of my own complaints. Reminds me of that George Bernard Shaw quote:


"This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clot of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy."




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PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 6:54 pm 

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Facebook, like TV, fosters an aspirational social life.




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PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 7:23 pm 

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@JP. I sometimes wonder if my judging personality is too much even for MY own good. I have just a handful of people that I can wholly communicate with and refrain from sarcasm or some form of social placating that the receiver does not even realize. Most of my social energy gets sucked out at work in interactions that have little value to me. It is interesting that you mention that your patience has decrease since stopping work.


In response to

"Part of it is that I have the patience of a 2yo, but part of it is knowing there are people like you all out in the world somewhere."


I lean on this ideal too much. I try and NOT to get to know people even if I "should" because I am almost always disappointed with the shallowness I find and inevitably regret the interaction. I seemingly agree with you that I would likely enjoy social interaction with most people that post on this forum. That being said, we would probably get on each others nerves much like everyday interaction. I think its just the nature of the judging, introvert.




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PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 7:33 pm 

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A long hard lesson for me was that normal people just, like, get together and share goodwill just for the heck of it with people they don't even care about. It's kinda fun once I got the hang of it. I had to learn to just say, "you could be right about that!" when people say stupid shit tho.


I only have a few very good friends. They're far away. Locally I share goodwill and foster interdependence with people I don't even like, and that can come to be as intimate as other friendships.




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PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 7:35 pm 

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I finally got that article to load. Damn, we need a meet up!




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PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 7:50 pm 

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Since I never signed on for Facebook, I guess I don't know what I am missing.


I think the internet can make it easy for people to become aloof/lonely in the "real" (of course an argument can be made that the internet relationships are real too) while giving them the illusion of companionship/friendship.


I mean look at this site itself, some of us seem to be on here pretty often and might even have a feeling of community by interacting with other folks on here. Does that necessarily mean that we would have formed similar 'friendships' in the non web world? maybe...maybe not. It depends on more than just interest in say ERE or a couple of shared interests.


People are much more multi-dimensional than what comes through a blog/internet posting. I think unfortunately the internet tends to showcase people as more uni-dimensional. Also, it takes some time to know people in the 'real' world. On the internet, you can get pretty 'close' to someone very quickly and think you have a deep connection. Often the real life meeting feels like a bit of a disappointment (common complain from people who find dates online).


I think loneliness/unhappiness comes when there is the realization that you don't like your current situation but for any number of reasons (often in the guise of 'being realistic', 'practical',fear of the unknown etc.) you don't engage in action to make a change that is in line with your values.




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PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 8:48 pm 

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@GandK

*I read a quote from a psychologist once who said, "Some people mistakenly believe that their loneliness is the product of another person's absence." It took me a week to really comprehend the truth of that message.*


Thanks for sharing that quote. It is so powerfully true. I have found in my own life that you can be lonely even when someone for whom you care deeply is with you. Though I've never been married, I imagine that many marriages on the precipice of divorce dwell in this situation.


@all

I reluctantly signed up with Facebook at the insistance of several high school classmates in the aftermath of the 30th reunion. Tempermentally, I wasn't inclined to all the superficial stuff that seems to predominate on these sorts of sites (Twitter is even worse). But I thought this would be a way to reconnect with people from various aspects of my life and perhaps get some from one to know others from another. I naively thought that this might overcome the sense of fragmentation I sometimes feel in social relations, i.e. am I lawyer guy or monk guy or fraternity brother, etc.?


At any rate, I am ambivalent about social media. I rarely log in to Facebook. I have never tweeted one single Tweet (but I also have zero followers). Yet the interactions on this forum have been robust and a source of real delight for me.


We may not be the only animals that are aware of our loneliness, but we are apparently the only ones who can project the sense of alienation associated with it into our future consciousness. Thus, we often turn an acute negative experience into a chronic one. It is for this reason, among others, that I try to live in the moment. As the KJB put it, "Sufficient unto the day are the evils thereof."




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PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 10:10 pm 
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Interesting article. I think the title belies the conclusion, which appears to be the opposite:


“Facebook is merely a tool, he says, and like any tool, its effectiveness will depend on its user. “If you use Facebook to increase face-to-face contact,” he says, “it increases social capital.” So if social media let you organize a game of football among your friends, that’s healthy. If you turn to social media instead of playing football, however, that’s unhealthy.


Facebook can be terrific, if we use it properly,” Cacioppo continues. “It’s like a car. You can drive it to pick up your friends. Or you can drive alone.” But hasn’t the car increased loneliness? If cars created the suburbs, surely they also created isolation. “That’s because of how we use cars,” Cacioppo replies. “How we use these technologies can lead to more integration, rather than more isolation.”


I agree with this quote from the article. In the end, these things are just tools. I find FB useful to keep track of children -- who are all on it anyway -- and relatives who do not live nearby, but that I might see once or twice per year. Its fun to see pictures of their children, pets (look, its a new goat!)and other bits of their lives. And I would rather look at them there than talk to anyone about it on the phone. But I have to note that those relationships were not formed through FB -- like the author quoted above says, FB is just a tool to aid them. I also use it to follow blogs like ERE and Mr. Money Mustache.


I also find that a lot of this is generational. Briefly, younger people (like under age 30) know how to use this stuff well and integrate it into their regular lives and friendships. Older people don't and often stumble with it or simply don't know enough others using it to make it useful. And statistically more older people in the Baby Boomer generation in particular are trending towards living alone. Here's an interesting article about that: http://us4.campaign-archive2.com/?u=2da200dadfadb9b53f9bf07a2&id=2a4059e59f




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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 12:10 am 
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Fixed the title. Why does the autocorrect on my phone change words I don't want changed, but miss actual misspellings?




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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 12:44 am 
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One of the main attractions to ERE - at least for me - is the freedom to do what I want to do and the ability to avoid/refrain from doing what I don't want to do. One of the ways I've used that freedom in the past is to avoid dealing with people I don't enjoy being around. Interestingly, now that I don't HAVE to be around any particular person other than my wife, I find that I have far less patience or tolerance for those who I could have easily endured before.


So I have to make an effort. I teach classes that I don't need to teach in large part for the interaction. I've joined two groups that meet weekly for the same reason. Most importantly, my wife and I manage a small senior apartment complex which is absolutely fascinating.


The seniors are independent and all but two live alone in small apartments. While they have all been relatively successful in their previous lives, most now struggle with social interaction. In fact, it was a topic of conversation at a recent party we had. Several of the more social tenants talked about how they were struggling with getting out of their "cocoons". They were the few who attended and were self-aware enough to recognize a problem.


While I agree that Americans are more solitary than ever before, I don't believe facebook or the internet is the cause. Very few of my seniors have the internet and even fewer are on facebook.


They do have more control over their lives than their parents or grandparents did. In fact, we all do. Where we once had very defined roles, there is now a giant gray area within which we define our own role. It is - I believe - this increased control over our own destiny that causes our self-segregation.


And television. Television is the devil.




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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 1:16 am 
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Frankly, I find the bias and hidden assumptions of these kind of articles frustrating and annoying. It would seem to have us believe that being a "fun extrovert" and enjoying the kind of deeply philosophical conversations (<-irony) "everybody enjoys" at a dinner party of 20 simultaneously jabbering people is eminently preferable over the seemingly neuroticism (obviously the

diametric opposite psychological description of "fun and outgoing") that must be the basis of finding such bantering completely unsatisfying.


Yeah right.


Blargh! Isn't it obvious that the medium of exchange somehow defines the content of the exchange? On facebook, yeah, sure I have to endure daily pictures from some friends about the "delicious meal they just ordered/ate", but at least I don't have to fake an interest in some precious and healthy" real world interaction" about "how the weather is" or "how we've been" ("uh what? Oh hello to you too!").


I am personally extremely grateful for a medium that finally allows the exchange of ideas that are more complex than some platitude about how sports is doing or whatever.


There seems to be some understanding that merely being in the company of others does not necessarily eliminate feelings of loneliness. (Occasionally wondering whether I have been beamed down from another planet, that's at least something). However, why is the written social media (except the closest approximation to small talk that is the chatroom) vilified as some sort of shortcoming?


I bet I could write a completely symmetric piece that describes the "unhealthy aspects of going out and enjoying shallow conversations and cheap entertainment" instead of sharing one's thoughts or projects with like-minded people---how healthy it is to be self-contained introvert instead of being a needy histrionic.


(But that would result in some folks commenting on how unadjusted I am ;-P )


What offends me is the close-minded perspective and apparent lack of understanding that people have different preferences coupled with the notion that those who don't conform to the "normal" (or should I say culturally popular) side are somehow suffering.


Verily, to those how think like that and who seem to be addicted to their fun evenings in town, you certainly have my sympathy. Get well soon, okay?


End-of-rant.




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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 1:54 am 

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Jacob, you make a very good point, but I think the antipathy towards online modes of communication comes from the feeling that social relationships have become expendable and essentially a user-defined experience. If I'm getting annoyed/bored/tired of someone, I can minimize the window, sign off, or close the tab. In person, I'm forced to remain engaged with a person beyond that visceral negative response, which is often a good thing, because when you get past being initially annoyed at someone complaining about their ex-girlfriend not returning their calls (for example), the conversation may take a turn towards something more serious and you begin to develop an intimate bond with someone that will last many years, if not a lifetime.


On Facebook, instead, we're simply end-users connected to other end-users and we can minimize our private conversations with them or, what's worse, limit ourselves to the sorts of open, public conversations that aren't about anything of great substance.




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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 2:10 am 
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Yeah, but not necessarily. Neither facebook (or forums) nor real life(*) is exclusively or even dominantly one way or the other.


(*) Even the idea that going to a bar and shouting short sentences about a football team is somehow more real than writing someone a letter ...


I've formed several long friendships with people I've met and keep in contact with online. I've never done that with someone I met in a bar or restaurant. Of course, I'm an introvert and so one playing field works much better for me than the other. That doesn't mean, to me, that either one is superior or more healthy than the other.


Indeed at "outgoing places" (extrovert hangouts) it seems common practice that if someone gets annoyed/bored/etc. they just turn around and start talking to the next person and so on. Real life can be as end-user-like as the online world.




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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 2:17 am 
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@jacob, "What offends me is the close-minded perspective and apparent lack of understanding that people have different preferences coupled with the notion that those who don't conform to the "normal" (or should I say culturally popular) side are somehow suffering."


Perhaps the day is not far off where most of our interactions are filtered through a machine that somehow moderates everyone's feed to some sort of "normal" that we can all understand. Until then we are forced, at least some of the time, to converse and communicate face to face in a society consisting of more than one individual.


There are a handful of elemental truths regarding humanity. One such truth is the fact that we operate on the use-it-or-lose-it principle.


Sure, wrapping oneself in a cloak of introspection can be a strength as well as a weakness in the same way that the characteristic of the extrovert can be both. Equally, the extrovert who is incapable of being alone/quiet takes it to such an extreme that they are intolerable in the same way that the hermit finds ANY other person intolerable.


There is a slippery slope. Overindulging the introversion can lead one to lose the ability to hold face-to-face interactions with average people. Those people do indeed suffer because we operate in a society where we have no choice but to interact with others sometimes.




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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 2:23 am 

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Jacob, I'd definitely agree that the original meeting place isn't really important, but I'm pretty skeptical about a sustainable, deep relationship lasting a long time if the people interact solely online.


I think we're both in agreement about large-group scenarios. I imagine there's an ideal group size for socializing and forming deep relationships, and I'd imagine it's less than 5.




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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 2:45 am 
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I think longevity depends completely on the volume of interaction.


I also think there's a definite split in terms of "interfacing" that cuts between Generation X and Y. Many in my generation are not online (in the online sense) except the early technology adopters. Most people under 25 are.


I think it's time to bring up Graham's essay on nerds again.


http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html


The [possibly perceived] inabilities cut both ways. Digitally, people find that they have much more in common with others who are like them than with people they just happen to live within 5 miles off. Traditional delineaters like gender, skin color, nationality, degree, etc. become irrelevant. That's a good thing!


Call it a diversification or robustness of orientation that just got added to humanity. The current revolutions in the ME and Northern Africa are largely accredited to social networking. Imagine 40 years from now ... how are governments going to the respective citizens of each others countries to fight each other when the respective nationals are friends with each other across borders?


I think the problem the sociologists are having is that the internet is making it possible for people who used to believe they had to spend time trying to be popular (playing social butterflies) are finding that they now can spend their energy on something that's more appealing to them.


No, I think the internet is a great thing (best invention since electricity). Just because it doesn't fit in with some established patterns or theories doesn't make it bad.


The only thing I object to is the paradigm/dogma that whatever is not in agreement with the cultural average or even the cultural ideal (in the US extroversion is the cultural ideal but the average is actually the median) is somehow pathological to the level that even the language vilifies the non-ideal is just somewhat infuriating to me.




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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 2:54 am 
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BTW... I note that we're having this discussion online in a forum.


Can anyone imagine having a similar conversation sitting in a living room or a restaurant with equally many people?




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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 3:30 am 

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Jacob, thanks for linking to the Graham article--I'll have to get to it later and think more about this.


The irony of my advocating real-life interaction in an online forum is not lost on me. I think it would be possible to have a similar conversation in a living room or restaurant--if it's with the same people. I haven't been to one of the ERE meetups (if there's another one in NYC, I'll definitely go), but I would think that the conversations would be about similar subjects and similar depth.


There would be the disadvantage of being unable to cite sources and other articles for discussion and contemplation, as you did with the Graham piece. But there would also be the advantage of rapid-fire exchange and getting into a conversational groove, instead of you having to wait 21 minutes for my half-assed reply. Although I suppose that could be replicated in IMs. Would the exchange result in an emotional bond or merely intellectual growth on our parts? It seems the latter is possible on the internet, but I'm not so sure about the former.




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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 4:45 am 

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As someone who interacts a lot with seniors, my concern about relationships becoming primarily virtual is what happens when you need physical help? Someone to check up on you during a power outage, to bring food when you're sick or grieving, and so on.


On the other hand, eventually hospitals and nursing homes will be set up technologically to make it much easier to visit via Skype or virtual reality, so elder isolation might actually improve, if you're in an institution.


And if you don't like small talk, move the conversation where you want it. If you dare to say you don't like small talk and you'd rather talk about the meaning of life or why Murakami's latest novel was 400 pages too long, you might find other people are happy to get out of the weather-chat purgatory.




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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 5:36 am 

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"what happens when you need physical help?"


Obviously you post it to facebook:


http://mashable.com/2009/09/07/trapped-girls-facebook/




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