Guest Interviews — 3 Minutes

Online Friends vs. Face To Face

Guest Interviews — 3 Minutes

Online Friends vs. Face To Face

An excerpt from Dr. Warren’s full interview at the INSAR conference in Montreal.

Dr. Warren is the executive director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s (VKC) Treatment and Research Institute on Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD). His current research focuses on early detection and intervention for ASD as well as in the development of technological applications for potential intervention.

Frampton Gwynette: Some of the participants in the Autism News Network, and these are adults with high functioning autism, have commented to me about how important online friends are in their life. I have one young man, he mentioned that he’s had some online friends for over 10 years and they’re all in the same clan on a certain game and that he counts them as close friends of his, where I think other people who are maybe outside of his world would say, “Hey, that’s not a real friend. Friends or someone that you meet with face to face.” I guess my two part question is what do you think of that statement and then do you think technology can help make the leap from the virtual world to a face to face world?

Zack Warren: Yeah. I think we’re all different in terms of what we think about in terms of what is meaningful social engagement. And for a lot of us, we’ve traditionally thought of that as sort of face to face interactions because, prior to a hundred years ago, we really didn’t have the ability to interact with other individuals without that type of face to face sort of scenario playing out. I think I find reward in different types of relationships myself. Not necessarily online per se, but I have work friends and I have friends in my neighborhood and I have my college friends.

Zack Warren: And actually the way that I interact with those folks right now, a lot of times is technologically mediated. Yeah. I don’t see my college roommate but once every five years. But we have this sort of idea of how we can connect apart from that. So it’s interesting to think about. So is my relationship with that friend different? Because we had that experience before and now it’s somehow more meaningful because we’re interacting with that. So I think we’re having to think differently about what it means to interact with other individuals via technology. And I think there are ways in which it can be probably wonderfully adaptive, wonderfully meaningful and rewarding. And they’re probably also some ways where it’s not.

Frampton Gwynette: Yeah. As you were talking, I was thinking about when I grew up, this was, believe it or not, we had cordless phones in high school. Before high school, we had phones, usually one phone upstairs with a long cord that could dragged from my sister’s bedroom or it’s in my bedroom depending on who was using the phone at that time. And now that’s all out the window. And usually you’re communicating by text and that’s so important for young people. That’s their lifeline to socialize. Yeah. So it has changed quite a bit. I think as a parent now, I’d kill to have my daughter on the telephone speaking with her friends now rather-

Zack Warren: Than texting all the time. Yeah, no, it’s different. It’s definitely different.

Frampton Gwynette: Yeah, exactly.

Frampton Gwynette: Some of the participants in the Autism News Network, and these are adults with high functioning autism, have commented to me about how important online friends are in their life. I have one young man, he mentioned that he’s had some online friends for over 10 years and they’re all in the same clan on a certain game and that he counts them as close friends of his, where I think other people who are maybe outside of his world would say, “Hey, that’s not a real friend. Friends or someone that you meet with face to face.” I guess my two part question is what do you think of that statement and then do you think technology can help make the leap from the virtual world to a face to face world?

Zack Warren: Yeah. I think we’re all different in terms of what we think about in terms of what is meaningful social engagement. And for a lot of us, we’ve traditionally thought of that as sort of face to face interactions because, prior to a hundred years ago, we really didn’t have the ability to interact with other individuals without that type of face to face sort of scenario playing out. I think I find reward in different types of relationships myself. Not necessarily online per se, but I have work friends and I have friends in my neighborhood and I have my college friends.

Zack Warren: And actually the way that I interact with those folks right now, a lot of times is technologically mediated. Yeah. I don’t see my college roommate but once every five years. But we have this sort of idea of how we can connect apart from that. So it’s interesting to think about. So is my relationship with that friend different? Because we had that experience before and now it’s somehow more meaningful because we’re interacting with that. So I think we’re having to think differently about what it means to interact with other individuals via technology. And I think there are ways in which it can be probably wonderfully adaptive, wonderfully meaningful and rewarding. And they’re probably also some ways where it’s not.

Frampton Gwynette: Yeah. As you were talking, I was thinking about when I grew up, this was, believe it or not, we had cordless phones in high school. Before high school, we had phones, usually one phone upstairs with a long cord that could dragged from my sister’s bedroom or it’s in my bedroom depending on who was using the phone at that time. And now that’s all out the window. And usually you’re communicating by text and that’s so important for young people. That’s their lifeline to socialize. Yeah. So it has changed quite a bit. I think as a parent now, I’d kill to have my daughter on the telephone speaking with her friends now rather-

Zack Warren: Than texting all the time. Yeah, no, it’s different. It’s definitely different.

Frampton Gwynette: Yeah, exactly.

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