Question: Is Web Social technology consuming us, pulling us away from traditional/physical sociology? If so, is this a bad thing?
It's funny how we spend so much of our lives now communicating in ways that don't require speech :). It seems most of our day it is possible to get from dawn til dusk, socializing and interacting with our peers and work colleagues without ever uttering a single word. With instant message, Skype chat (something I am using more and more), emails, Facebook, Twitter etc. it is possible to complete your entire day without touching, seeing, feeling or speaking to another human being. The sales folks amongst us might be the final frontier in this regard.
The question becomes then is this a bad thing?
On the one hand it can be argued that it is our very nature as social beings is to interact in some "space" with others. Something we innately need whether we realize it or not. On the other hand I wonder if it is becoming more and more acceptable that this "space" actually be "cyber" based and not necessarily physically. When we sit face to face with a friend or work colleague there are likely hundreds of social nuances and signals from which we feed - that define who we are as a society. Perhaps in some way, we feed off the mere presence of another person in the room; some base, primal need is being auto-filled without us knowing, keeping us whole in some way.
Social media might be affecting HOW we communicate, but is it true that we are being forced to become more polite and error on the side of being a little overly cheery to give ourselves a little more insurance on the IM post? What is interesting about our non-physical communications is that if you look closely, we tend to have to exaggerate the niceties in our comments, tweets and posts just to ensure whomever we are speaking to receives our message in an appropriate way. We have a tendency to really enunciate and over exclaim our "Thanks much!!" and our "good to talk to you again!!" To indicate our mild amusement we might even "LOL" or "RFLOL", but did we really Laugh Out Loud? Even in some of our more formal emails we will scatter a few smiley faces, in an attempt to keep things happy-happy and light hearted as much as possible. Perhaps it is not enough any more to use just words to express ourselves in this online environment we find ourselves living in.
But it does seem more that we are content to pass Facebook and Twitter messages back and forth to one another without ever uttering a word. We silently chuckle to ourselves at the clever, witty little retorts our friends send us. We go to great lengths to ensure the latest link of our favorite pop video is posted on Facebook; We spend hours interacting via Twitter or Meebo rather than spending 15 minutes on the phone. It is clear that we use these social tools because we love to - not because we have to or just for work purposes. In reality the new social media wave is an extension of what we love to do and isn't something we are driven to do by necessity.
Are we choosing to communicate in silence over speaking with someone?
There is the argument out there that a Social Tech bubble is forming; that some day it will pop as the Dot-Com bubble did in 2000. You have to wonder though if we are in fact choosing the silent social scoop over physical/verbal interaction because we love to, how can a bubble be forming? It is more likely that we are experiencing a fundamental shift in how society interacts with one another through Social Media as opposed to what happened with the Dot-Com debacle.
I know what you are thinking - yes - it is likely that I have gone just a little insane from spending most of my day alone with my computer. I'm starting to over think things. Next I'll be having conversations with my coffee cup, God knows I'm already way past that point with my canine companion who faithfully abandons me to go chase squirrels outside. Maybe this blog post is the beginning of my path towards insanity and just maybe I have unknowingly already answered my own question :).
David McKillen Web Strategies Inc.
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