First let me acknowledge the irony. Everything I write in this post in enabled by the technology and infrastructure of social media.
Second let me start by saying people will always complain, and for those who want to look at it that way, the world has always sucked Social Media is unlikely to blame. Social Media however fascinates me as in some respects the technology is the pinnacle of shifting away from our more naturalistic social groupings and into a world of unlimited connections. Not wanting to be guilty of naturalistic fallacies but social psychologists believe that many of our social instincts and cognitive processes are designed for a small tribe of 150 people. How does that relate to FaceBook, well put simply its nothing our brains are prepared for!
So what does Social Media offer that is so unique? I mean we’ve have TV, Radio, email, snail mail and whatnot for ages, what gives? Something I find fascinating about online interactions is they operate like a conversation with optional input operating over unlimited time…
What I mean is that if I post a status on Facebook, that status is there permanently like a general statement to the world (unless I should choose to delete it, even then many sites will still keep a post for people who have already commented and/or people may still see it through various loopholes). Now it terms of interaction, people may ‘like’ or comment and then in turn I might reply, or not. I might reply within minutes days or even years.
Now on its own-some this time frame aspect isn’t too odd especially considering people used to wait years for post to travel, but what I find it the fact that commenting on FaceBook is a low cost/low effort action so it can be just a varied as an everyday interaction.
So just to contrast this with interactions IRL (in real life) you can see the other person, you take into consideration the context, body language, all the rest and your interactions while not high-cost are limited to right then and there and appropriate turn taking and all the rest. I’m not trying to be a fuddy-duddy here and lament the loss of face-to-face interactions (because for one thing they are still happening) its just to point out the potential oddness of being ‘exposed’ to so many potential communications that normally one would not, and thats the topic of my next point.
The other really weird thing about social media is the cross-over between people. I think for those using social media to promote something professionally or a hobby or whatever this isn’t such a big deal because and audience is an audience right? However using the likes of FaceBook for ‘real’ socializing can draw some strange connections that probably wouldn’t have happened in person. Friends arguing with family (not theirs) workmates crossing paths with school friends. Sometimes this is really cool and much like the way we make friends IRL and some of it is downright awkward.
Which comes to my final point, Social Media gives everyone a platform. And oddly while we have lots of control over whether we use it, once you’re there its harder to navigate without being exposed to information you didn’t ask for and never wanted to know (i.e. you can’t choose to turn off your cousin Bob’s oversharing status’ the best you can do is block Bob, but then you don’t get the parts you do want and/or offend Bob). On the extreme end this means we are more exposed to opinions and stances then ever before. I’m reminded of that advice never to discuss politics, religion (and one other thing what was it again) at the dinner table – well Social Media basically says forget it, it’s All on the table.
There’s probably more I could go on about, fake internet points being a whole other topic on the subject, but I think I’d end on that conclusion (plus I see the clock turning over and alas I must work) Social Media hasn’t exactly ruined people, what its done is made opposing opinions much more in our faces!