Recent Thoughts on Social MediaAugust 14, 2009 at 13:04 | Posted in Life, Tech | 2 Comments
Tags: Social Media, thoughts
I find myself pondering the direction in which things are moving and in truth have been moving for quite some time. I have been around the Internet since the days when it was text only and things like Usenet and IRC were king. Postings on the Usenet (before it became a waste land for binaries) were considered, heart felt, and usually several paragraph long. One had to actually take time to read them and time to formulate a proper response. Similarly Chatting on IRC usually meant having deep conversations often lasting hours.
Since those days there has been a slow but steady march towards more chatter with less substance. Today we have MicroBlogs and other social media that limit the users ability to converse to a scant 140 characters. Although I believe that it is entirely possible to have a conversation 140 characters at a time. I do not believe that it is possible to have a meaningful discussion. I constantly find myself wanting to comment on something I’ve seen on Twitter or one of the other Social Networking sites but I find there is no way to fit my thought into the constraints of the medium. I am sure others suffer the same fate, and so, conversations on these sites stay simple, superficial, and often highly polarized (yes it is… no it isn’t…. yes!! it is!!… etc).
Please do not get me wrong. I am NOT saying that people that use these sites/services are simple minded or lacking depth. I am saying that the medium is not useful for in-depth, considered, and meaningful discussion.
These sites/services allow people to have a voice and to comment on things. I have seen from my own experience with Social Media that it is much easier to comment on something than to form a considered opinion and discuss it properly. I can see how it would be very easy to fall into commenting on this and that and then commenting on peoples comments on your comments. I can also see how this would detract from doing more considered work. It is much easier to throw out 200 comments then to take the time to consider all sides of a issue form a considered opinion and write out your thoughts in something measured in paragraphs or pages rather then characters.
There is also the other side of the problem that the Social Media phenomenon is half symptom and half cause of. The continued shrinking of peoples attention spans. I am certain that by this point in this blog posting I have lost a significant portion of people who started reading it. In writing this I have broken one of the main caveats of having a popular blog, keep it short and sweet. Luckily I am not interested in having a popular blog. I wish to have a meaningful one.
The comments above on popularity bring me to another phenomenon of which Social media is both symptom and cause. If the generation coming of age in the 80’s was the “Me” generation, then the current group of people coming of age could well be describes as the “Look at Me” generation.
Social Media fosters a culture of faux popularity. The more followers you can gather the more respected you are in the current Social media culture. Sadly this too is superficial and unconsidered. Followers are not friends, nor acquaintances. The people that gather these crowds do not know any of these people in a meaningful way, no more then a street performer knows or has a relationship or friendship with the crowd that gathers to watch him or her while they perform. In both cases once the performance ceases to be amusing the crowd will quickly drift away. However in the Social Media world few people take the time to un-follow someone unless they become annoying. This creates a false sense of someones popularity and a false respect for the person.
I’m not saying that Social media is evil or should be done away with. I’m saying it is part of a long, on going trend towards the superficial. So we now have superficial conversations on superficial topics with superficial “friends” using a superficial medium. We are heading towards a place where people, instead of having discussions, thoughts, and feelings, have performance content and viewers (Followers). This will be a sad and lonely place when life gets rough. Because viewers are notoriously fickle and tend not to stick around if things get heavy, or require them to think, feel, or god forbid act (well other then commenting).
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