Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Social Media is Anti-Social

At the last social media breakfast (#smb6), brought to us by Bryan Person and Jeff Pulver (thanks guys), Jeff actually said out loud that social media is anti-social. @beeahna put it another way at the recent PRSSA regional event when she said "social media is neither social or media, discuss."

It sounds absurd at first. Social media is anti-social! But why is it called social media then?

But the truth is, if you're tweeting at the dinner table, you're not conversing with the people in front of you. It's a very removed way to be social and friendly. Social media allow us to be in touch with people around the world, but what does it mean if we can't translate that openness and transparency to the time we spend with people offline?

What's the point of having a million Facebook friends if you're still hunched over a computer on a Friday night alone?
cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Be honest. When you're sitting at a meeting full of laptops, do you wonder what's up on the other guys screen? Solitarie? Is he listening to you? LA Times reported that some Silicon Valley companies are going "topless" partially for this reason. Clicking away on a laptop, cell phone or any other device doesn't inspire that team feeling, in fact, it partially removes you from your surroundings.


What's my solution? We can't forget in all the social media love fests that there are still humans to interact with in person. Go to dinner with a bunch of folks from Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Pulse, etc. and put a face with the online personality you're used to.

6 comments:

Alison Driscoll said...

I love social media, but I've often thought the same thing. I am still a huge Facebook junkie because I actually know and enjoy the company of 90% of my Fbook friends; they are "real" friends as well.

Twitter is fun, but I agree, not social in the flesh-and-blood, human company sense. These sites have created a new kind of social; not bad, but certainly different.

I think if we use social sites as virtual meeting places but progress toward the actual, face-to-face meetings and meals you suggest, we can make social media more social than either definition.

JayVee said...

Great points, Alison. I use my social sites to stay connected with friends/colleagues that I can't call up every 5 seconds or meet up with on a daily basis. I also use them to connect with folks from all over as a gateway to meeting them in person (Sandy, we will meet up, I promise!).

Like everything, I think there needs to be a balance. I love what social sites offer me, plus the convienence, but I still think nothing tops face to face interaction with friends/colleagues.

Sandy said...

Thanks for the comments, Alison and JayVee.

Twitter has been at the heart of the social media balance discussion, specifically of Todd Defren's post on tweet to work to life balance. Though he's speaking more from the employer perspective, finding balance between these new social media and everything else people are expected to cram into a day is hard.

We talk about the positives of social media--a broadening scope of people to meet and become engaged with--however, I'm beginning to wonder if all this digital social has made us interpersonally lazy. Sending an email, text, tweet or whatever can be an easy and tempting substitute for the face to we have trouble balancing in!

JayVee, Alison, everyone--I hope we meet in person soon, someday. :-)

AVIANA said...

wow..i am new here..

i read this post and it struck such a major chord with me...

i've tried to limit the number of friends on facebook and myspace for this same issue you brought up..

i always wondered why or how people can have 400 or so friends...

maybe people have different perceptions on what a friend is..

it's so interesting how technology makes it so easy for people to connect with each other..at the same token are we really connected...

it is also interesting how there are so many avenues of contact that many choose not to contact at all despite verbally saying that they do...

all of this advancement is not really that beneficial to the unity of people in general...

it's so easy to be disconnected while maintaining constant electronic connection...

who are you connecting with when you are texting while you are at a meeting...even when you stop texting are you really connected with the people in meeting as you wait for your phone to vibrate for the next text message?

yes we are all easily "connected" now but are we really connected, do we understand each other, are we communicating....

i think i've babbled too much..interesting post...

i think i may come back for more...:)

JayVee said...

Aviana - I think you raised some interesting points. I use social media sites to expand my network, it still is about a personal connection, for me. I don't want facebook friends/myspaces friends, twitter follers, etc, just for the sake of saying "I follow 'x' " and so on. It's about connecting with people and adding value to their life in some way. I can honestly say I've interacted in some way with everyone in my social media network in some fashion (some more than others).

But others aren't like me -- they just see value in numbers, which reminds me of a popularity contest in high school. It's all very interesting.

Not to say I've never been in a meeting and texting away (for example) because I'd rather be conversing with someone else at that exact moment. Sometimes it's a welcomed distraction :)

Stephen Dill said...

Interesting observation. I suspect this is the root cause of so many being skeptical of the potential for social media as a marketing channel or method. However, choosing Facebook over friends is relatively less likely to happen than choosing Twitter over TV. Antisocial behavior isn't spawned by blogs and MySpace, but it sure is a neat place to spend lots of time if you are antisocial by nature.

My only concern about social media is the time it takes as you learn of yet another SM aggregator, another blog, and - egads - it's been over 15 minutes since I updated on Twitter! What suffers is my solitude, my reading, and my meditation. THAT is the larger threat of social media - the forfeit of time spent in thought and contemplation in order to support an ever-expanding network of people you have come to know, either face-to-face or online.