Posts tagged ‘social networking’
I’m not sure I’m buying their argument in its entirety, but Stephen Linaweaver, Brad Bate and Michael Keating have written a provocative post on GOOD, “Conspicuous, but not Consuming,” that certainly merits discussion. Their theory is that social networks are filling the hole left in our lives by our inability to buy as much stuff as we used to. The lads write:
…”conspicuous consumption’ is being replaced by “conspicuous expression” as the driver of identity. This new paradigm emphasizes the conspicuousness of ideas, interests, and opinions rather than accumulating more stuff than your neighbor. This is not insignificant. How billions choose to distinguish themselves from one another will be just as important to global sustainability as how they power their homes, what they eat, and how they commute to work, making online social networking a critical “leapfrog” technology in the developing world and a surprisingly powerful source of behavioral change in the developed world.
Are Facebook and Twitter the medicine that will cure our addiction to acquiring things? Let’s wait a bit before we draw that as a final conclusion. An enormous preponderance of the self-expression on social networks winds up like the proverbial tree that falls in the forest. Not a sound is made. Nor am I certain that 65-inch HD TVs will lose their allure because people will choose instead to forsake them and turn to the fleeting rewards of digital egotism. Nevertheless, in the short term at least, it does seem as if many are amusing themselves in a down economy by taking refuge in the social networks and doing what Ken Kesey used to refer to as “starring in their own movies.”
Just what individual users of multiple social networks have been waiting for(?) – sophisticated analytics for one.
TechCrunch reports on Zensify, an application that enables people to analyze the goings-on in the multiple social networks to which they belong. It sounds clever, but one can’t help wondering if one’s social life has become a bit too complicated if one need the tools Zensify offers to make sense of it all. Mike Butcher writes:
“…what sets Zensify apart is that it shows the user trends within your social graph in the form of a tag cloud of key words. In other words it brings a lot more intelligence to your social graph. Suddenly, you can see a big trending topic amongst people you follow.”
The applications for something analogous are obvious for the advertising business, and I suppose there will be many individual users who embrace it as well. Nevertheless, part of me hopes that at least one or two people will see Zensify, pitch their iPhones in the dumpster and move to a cave in the woods.
The anonymity of the internet makes people brave. Unfortunately, being brave doesn’t make them smart.
John Hawkins has written a worthwhile piece on pajamasmedia.com called “How the Internet Damages Our Culture.” The crux of his argument is that the ability to speak out anonymously has emboldened the crude, the rude and the thuggish to spew their venom without threat of public censure. He’s not wrong. Civil discourse has taken a giant step backwards. Ad hominem attacks are the rule of the day. Rational argument has been marginalized by the spectacle of public abuse. In our own industry, the recent firestorm over anonymous comments about Eric Silver and Lee Garfinkel confirms it.
However, I’m not sure the internet bears complete responsibility for this development. Long before people ever heard of blogs or message boards, we began behaving badly thanks to a totally different piece of technology–the automobile. When people are sealed up in their driving capsules, they get astonishingly brave. Minor breaches of traffic etiquette are met with breathtaking fury and gestures suggesting unnatural sex acts. And more often than not, the people making these gestures would probably mutter a slightly embarrassed, “sorry” if you accidentally bumped into them in a train station.
I’m certainly no Luddite, but it’s hard to get around the conclusion that technology that isolates us and hides our identities diminishes in some way our humanity. Social networking must not be allowed to wipe out the rules of collegial discourse that apply in the town square. Say no to anonymous posting. And while you’re at it, roll your windows down in the car.
On the remote chance that you’ve let your subscription to Biologist magazine lapse, here’s a link to an article by Aric Sigman, “Well Connected? The Biological Impact of Social Networking.” It won’t make you feel any better, but it will help explain the science behind that empty feeling you get when you realize you’re sitting by yourself in a darkened apartment in front of your Facebook page on Saturday night.