Does extensive online gaming help or hinder social interaction?

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The beginning of the first article is something I definetly agree with.

Gaming, especilly online gaming, can make some great friends - And I know through the MMO I have played I have encountered several people I call friend now and like to handf out with outside of the game

I'm gonna have to agree with the end of the article. I am no where near a social person. I have a couple of people I chat to, and that's only because we have something to relate to.

Gaming, and the Internet as a whole is a good social medium. It's easier, you can lay in the comfort of knowing that you won't be judged by what you are, but more of who you are. How you speak, how you think, e.t.c.

Some times it could be pretty hard to step out from that medium onto a harder medium. Where people do judge, they do have a stereotype about you, either intentionally or unintentionally.

Good read.

It comes down to whether or not you're staying a shut-in because you really want to be, or if you really long to be out and about but are too afraid too. The guy in the article sounds like he's hampered by some previously harsh experiences, though that still doesn't mean he's some extrovert who would be surrounding himself otherwise, if only those kids hadn't picked on him.

In the past, you simply couldn't be social while in your room by yourself, or at best you'd have to call and talk to people on the phone, but definitely had a very hard time meeting anyone new that way. Now you can meet people and make friends, even ones that translate into RL ones, all while sitting in front of one's PC. However, there is a limit there, and if you don't end up making local friends it just doesn't fit the sort of social interaction that a minimum of which is needed for a healthy mind.

I think it's pretty telling that he doesn't have any friends at his job, at all. Not that you've got to be best buds with all your coworkers, but if there's no connection at all, that's a good sign of a problem deeper than spending too much time online.

mattaui said most of the things I wanted to say, but I also wanted to mention the fact that Dr. Mark used the term "douche bags," even in quotes, is superb.

Seriously, I really like how these columns seem to connect to and address the individual's concern while simultaneously informing the rest of us.

I really dislike this big thing about 'meeting new people' - it sounds like that unless your some social butterfly with a bucketload of friends, and meeting new ones every day then your some sort of social recluse.

I was similarly bullied at school and found it difficult to make new friends, but I think that sometimes you need to take a step back and look at yourself and see what you want in life.

Some advice for the guy in the article:

1) Don't think you can make everyone like you - or that you should like everyone. Some people just don't mix. Don't be a dick about it though, tolerate some people and try to just be nice. Same goes with meeting new people, don't expect them to like you straight away, and there is probably a good chance that they wont like you, but so what! Its their loss and not yours.

2) It's far easier to meet and socialise with people that you have a shared interest in - if even to have SOMETHING to talk about; otherwise if you feel like you have to come up with random subjects and hope that they are interested in it too.

3) Work also isn't always the best place of socalise simply because alot of people are in 'work mode' and any socialising is thought of as slacking off. Alot of people at work can be complete douches simply because they are stressed or they are your superior or something - so don't gauge your social abilities on work friends because its a different social setting and some people don't even want to make friends at work.

4) Be yourself and do what you enjoy - don't try to fit yourself into a group that you don't belong or put yourself into situations that you don't enjoy. Sooner or later you will have to admit to yourself (and your new friends) that you don't enjoy yourself and make an ass of yourself in the process. Stick with what you enjoy and you can relate better with other people and it will make the 'friend making' process alot easier for both parties.

5) Its better to have 2 great friends than 100 crap friends. Even if you make all new friends and socialise etc you need to know if they are true friends or just people you know. Alot of the time 'crap' friends don't really care and take you as just making up the numbers. Personally I find much more satisfaction out of enjoying the company of a few great friends who I know and trust than being surrounded by 100 crap friends who are only out for themselves / not really interested in you.

6) Sometimes its good to be alone. Everyone needs time by themselves and sometimes being on your own is far easier and enjoyable than spending time & money socialising with friends. Also the sub text of your mom saying "Get out and make new friends" is can sometimes be "Go and there and make me some damn grandkids!" As long as you're happy with yourself then it shouldn't really matter how many friends you've got or how you spend your time.

I know what he means, for the longest time I was very afraid to go out there and put myself up for friendship. Ghosts of Classmates Past still haunt me, but I think I've gotten past it. I make friends at work joking with people and trading email addresses, so I mix both real friends and online friends. I feel I've reached a fairly good balance of online friends, offline friends, and online/offline time.

I might suggest to the writer to see if he could meet friends via his current friends, like his D&D group. See if they're doing anything and meet some of their friends to test waters with your already good friend.

I think what your mum is trying to prevent is you becoming what the Japanese call a Hikikomori - a shut-in to us. Though it is interesting to see that such a condition is becoming more and more common as time goes by if this article is anything to go by...


If you can, put out some feelers and see if anyone on the internet who shares your interests happens to live near you. Then comes the hard part, get out there and meet them. It will not only bag you a friend who's more than an avatar and text. (I've made friends like this.)

If you can't find this - ask about volunteer work. Getting out of the house once in a while does wonders for blowing off any cobwebs in your mind and keeps your skills sharp for when you'll be entering employment. (Plus it always looks good on a CV from an employer's point of view as it makes you look like a hard worker who takes initiative.)

Best of all, all these things will make your mum a lot happier and calmer as a result. I hope things work out for you, but I am confident that they will.

Hey, I have them issues too!

I'm not all that social, games helped me get out there and make some friends... just so happened some of them are local, heh.

It's good that people note that not wanting to be social makes you obsess over stuff, I find, not that obsessing over stuff making you anti-social.

You know, I'd like for someone to explain to me, once and for all, why "going out and making friends" is the thing you're supposed to do with your life. "Go to the bar, you might meet a cute girl." "Join the band, you might make some friends."


I am seriously asking, why is there this giant push to socialize? Why is it considered "unhealthy" to not want to spend time with other people? Some of us are "antisocial" not because we are scarred mentally somehow, or simply "too scared" to go out and meet others, but because we genuinely DO NOT LIKE BEING AROUND OTHER HUMAN BEINGS. Online socialization is fine; you get new people to talk to and do stuff with, but have a much lower likelihood of being asked to give some drunk buddy a ride home (just so he can puke on your dashboard) or having a woman try to tease you with the promise of sex for repeated favors (because she's really got her eyes on that friend of yours, not knowing he puked on your dashboard last week). You can effectively disconnect from online friendships for a while if you so choose, so long as you're careful to limit the ways in which you contact others; in real life, it's not quite so easy.

I don't like people. At best there are four people on this planet I would want to spend anything more than an afternoon around (and none of them are my family; I love them, but I love them more from a distance) and none of them I could even remotely consider spending every day of my life with. I've tried; I've had a girlfriend (who ripped me off and ran back to Canada practically the moment she realized that her attempts to get me to marry her for naturalization purposes were useless due to immigration laws) and a roommate (who spent most of his time unemployed and not paying his half of the bills, before deciding to pack up and head for another state while giving me a couple weeks' notice). I've no desire to go through either situation again. One of the happiest moments of my life was when I finally moved away from my family, because it meant I finally got to be completely and totally alone.

Am I just maladjusted? I don't think so. I hold down a steady job, I like helping people, but it is my overwhelming desire to keep the rest of the species at arm's length. Really, I chalk a lot of this whole "go out and socialize" thing down to society's expectation that you meet someone of the opposite sex, settle down and have a family, because "it's what you should do".

Of course, I could go off on a tangental rant about expectations for men regarding sexuality ("Dude, you haven't laid a chick in two years? What is WRONG with you?!") but I'll save that for another time.

Yeah, I'm rambling here. I don't care. It's not like any of you can come to my house and complain about it. ;)

I used to have similar problems during my teenage years. The way I got over it was getting a job in the service industry, where you constantly have to talk to people you don't know and be nice to them. It does a really good job of teaching you how to be personable with people and it's helped me be more confident around people.

I think games aren't bad, neccessarily, for anxiety and social isolation. They certainly don't cause it, in my experience. As someone who has anxiety issues, I know gaming has been a refuge. It can be hard to step away from that refuge, but I know that it didn't make me anxious, it is just a safety blanket to shield me from anxiety-inducing situations.

I'm taking my anxiety into my own hands, and I'm making steps to control it. I'm a perfect example of someone who has taken all the steps Dr Mark explained in his article. I'm on medications, have ongoing counselling, and am working toward being more comfortable in stressful situations. My current goal is to become more confident in communicating with co-workers.

It's hard work, and I get tired after a long day at work. Then, I take time out. I game. And when I game, I forget my social problems. I forget the bitchy chicks at work and my fears. And, just for a little while, I relax and enjoy.

And then I shut down the computer and go to bed. Because I'm getting better from my anxiety, and I need all the rest I can get in order to beat it the next day.

I am disabled due to, among other things, Panic Disorder, Anxiety Disorder and PTSD. Almost all of my socialization is done via online interaction instead of IRL interaction (except for my wife and a few close family members). In talking with my doctor about it, I was told that based on what I was doing, and how I was doing it, my mind was finding ways to manage my PTSD and anxiety. It's about control. Online, I have a lot more control than I do IRL.

Games, for me, are a major form of therapy, and socialization. I do hope that this young man is able to deal with his anxiety and make true IRL friends. Good luck and be safe.

Since I suffer from F61 (F60.1,5,6, to varying degrees), and social interactions have the nasty tendency to make me want to hurt someone (typically, the other person(s) involved in the interaction), I prefer gaming.

If I'm gaming, I can just... 'turn the other person off,' if you will. No harm done. In reality, of course, a... similar... action carries stiff criminal penalties.

So, yes, I'd say gaming is a boon to my socialisation, in that it enables me to socialise without being locked away.

Apart from that, I defer to The Rogue Wolf's post, above, which covers a number of my complaints about humanity as a whole.

Sage advice. Counselling can be extremely effective for people with anxiety disorders in general. (I work in the mental health field) Speaking generally, I find that because anxiety responds well to specific strategems that are easily taught, that simply going and applying these strategies will often make things much better.

I'm in no way one of those social recluses that puts blackout curtains on all their windows

Hey, I have blackout curtains on all my windows! Just because of the heat though, that window (there is only one) is over 8 square meters and in the sun for most of the day.

Sage advice. Counselling can be extremely effective for people with anxiety disorders in general. (I work in the mental health field) Speaking generally, I find that because anxiety responds well to specific strategems that are easily taught, that simply going and applying these strategies will often make things much better.


Being in more or less the completely same situation as the OP, I can't wait to try out some of the techniques. Just hope medication or counsoling doesn't become neccessary.

Also in the same situation.

Good reading dr. Mark.

But what you do when you don't have gamer friends? I am basically the only gamer that I know.

I must say seeing the doc use douche bags in an article is one of the greatest things ever.

The Rogue Wolf:
You know, I'd like for someone to explain to me, once and for all, why "going out and making friends" is the thing you're supposed to do with your life. "Go to the bar, you might meet a cute girl." "Join the band, you might make some friends."


I am seriously asking, why is there this giant push to socialize? Why is it considered "unhealthy" to not want to spend time with other people? Some of us are "antisocial" not because we are scarred mentally somehow, or simply "too scared" to go out and meet others, but because we genuinely DO NOT LIKE BEING AROUND OTHER HUMAN BEINGS.

Diff'rent strokes, diff'rent folks and all that, but a little googling found this study: http://www.foodconsumer.org/newsite/Non-food/Lifestyle/social_ties_linked_to_longer_life_072820100104.html

I personally make no claims as to the veracity of the study, but for the sake of argument, it would appear that socializing has real health benefits.

I can only speak from my own experience, but I find that 85% of the time, if I'm nervous or anxious about socializing, then avoiding it is not the right thing to do. Rarely has avoiding social situations been better than embracing them. You mention friends puking on your dashboard like it's a bad thing. Of course it is, but how else do you get stories? How do you figure out the true friends? You complain about untrustworthy women, but how else do you find the right one without weeding through the terrible ones? Are these not the events that shape our lives? I can't tell you that socializing with vastly improve YOUR life, but if you tell me you've never wished you could tell better stories or never had second thoughts about skipping that party or whatever, I'll have to call your bluff. It's one thing to prefer to be alone now and then, another thing to avoid company because its easier.

Anyway, I guess my writing this is partly to answer your question, but also to remind everyone (and myself) to get out and live a little. Personally, regret is one of my biggest fears and I'd hate to rationalize myself into loneliness, only to look back and wonder where the time went. Video games are a great way to pass free time, but if it replaces the real moments, it's doing us a disservice. Millions of people have experienced the same maps and campaign modes of that favorite shooter of yours, but that night out with your buddies is much more unique.

The Rogue Wolf:
You know, I'd like for someone to explain to me, once and for all, why "going out and making friends" is the thing you're supposed to do with your life.

It's all about the support structure in your life. I'm talking about having as many options available to you as possible. Friends, even superficial ones, are useful when you can exploit them in some form. The tricky part is managing and maintaining this network to maximize 'benefits' and minimize the 'expenses.'

This is an overly simplified idea behind friends and there are many variables that need considering but basically any relationship is trying to get someone else to do what you want. People who are good at relationships tend to get a lot out of them, people who are bad at them get exploited... kinda like you were.

If you have a strong-enough support structure you don't need many friends if you don't have a strong support structure you will struggle at every point in you life.

For those quiet people that aren't generally feeling anxiety, let it be known that you're fine. The phrase went, "Different strokes for different folks," which essentially meant that each person has their own preferred approach to people and activities. And depending upon the situation, there might be an opportunity to "stretch" (i.e., show that there is more to you than you usually let on).

Thanks for this Dr. Mark.

I'm in a somewhat similar position to the writer (take out the D&D, and add some High School events), and this seems like great advice to try. I have been trying to do more this Senior year, trying to go out and 'stretch' as you said. I don't even really remember what I was going to write here, but I wanted to express my gratitude for discussing an issue that affects me, and giving advice that shows that I am actually doing something that might help.


Mark J Kline:
Ask Dr. Mark #8

Does extensive online gaming help or hinder social interaction?

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p.cool bro, i was pretending to be nostramdumass earlier and i predicted that this article was gunna be ''yes and no'' about the subject.

i was right. keep up the articles.

I'm not the greatest at socializing but I've got a group of solid friends and get out now and again (concerts, bars, parties, a choir (where I'm part of the after-rehearsal-drinks group), etc). I've got my problems and my strengths. And I'm always amazed by those guys who state they have all manner of social anxieties and then add they've got a wife (I'm 27 and I can't say I've ever been in a lasting romantic relationship).

But what I'm really wondering about is this thing that people supposedly feel its easier to make friends online. I find it absolutely impossible to 'act' different online to who I am offline. Logging onto a dating site (I know, I've tried) is just as terrifying to me as asking a girl for a drink in real life.

If there's one thing I've learned its that practically no problem you can have is unique to you; so I wonder how widespread this sentiment of mine is and why I always hear people talking about the contrary being true for them (ie. it's easier to make friends online).

I've got a terribly powerful moral compass that keeps me from lying and cheating at anything so it could just be that. Funny thing is that I'm a pretty decent actor and absolutely live the songs I sing and the parts I act, so I can imagine myself as somebody else but can't put that skill to work for me in the real world.

When I was a kid, I got mocked daily for reading books all the time and being chubby. When puberty started to kick in, I realized I had few friends, I was socially awkward, and girls were not interested in me. That was a drag. I played the video games, read the "genres" and generally made myself repellent to cool kids and found some solace in that. But the solution to social isolation is not to withdraw into your marginalized hobbies, but to find balance.

By the time I hit high school I decided to turn my situation around. I lost the weight, joined wrestling and got in shape, picked up the guitar, and tried to learn to listen more than I talked. This didn't mean that I stopped enjoying the hobbies I loved--I just balanced them with other more outgoing healthy social activities.

Now, as a college graduate, I don't have to hide my nerdy tendencies or make excuses for my hobbies. They are just one aspect of a well balanced life. Social interaction has to be learned, like anything. It just takes some people more time than others. And, like most things, the only way to get better at it is to practice.


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