Thursday, July 14, 2011

Is Social Media Making Us More "Media" and Less "Social"?

OK, so I've written a few times about my take on social media - and I'll admit - it has changed over time. I've gone from mocking it, to loving it, to somewhere in-between, to taking a break from it. It seems that everyone is so intent on updating their status, tweeting "the latest", joining (or being added to) a "circle" that we're forgetting one, teeny, tiny detail: we're not actually interacting with people. In real life.

This past weekend my wife and I hosted a party for some really great (somewhat) older people that she went to high school with (right after dirt was invented). We simply had a blast. There was tons of food and drink, there were 16 kids in the pool, various types of flesh on the barbecue, and (at least from my perspective) everyone had a really wonderful time catching up with each other.

Did I mention that her graduating class at the private, Christian school she attended had a graduating class of 12? Yeah. Really. 12.

While we were at the party, there were several folks taking pictures and immediately uploading them to Facebook, Tumblr, etc. I would say about 20% of the people would look at (and scroll through) their phones about every half hour or so.

It was all sort of... normal.

I mean, I take pictures with my camera - and sometimes I'll upload them right away, but most of the time I'll wait until I get home (or at least to a decent WiFi connection) to "do the deed." When I'm expecting an important email or someone sends me a text, I tend to glance at my phone from time to time.

Again... pretty normal.

None of the people at the party were professional nerds. Or media pukes. Or journalists. Or bloggers. They were just "the rest of us" - the "normal" people who populate Facebook with 700-900 status updates per second (and over 50 million "likes" a day). They were acting and interacting with minimal distraction, as part of the normal course of whatever it was that they were doing.

Both you and I know people that are absolutely glued to their smartphone (like they were glued to their pagers back in the day) - but there will always be those that seek their solace in electronics rather than with a face-to-face.

With every major brand getting on the "social media" bandwagon and including Facebook and Twitter links in all their print, television, radio and online advertising - it's just becoming "normal" to talk about promotions or to "like" (recommend) a post, a story, an infographic, a video, a fan page or whatever. It's starting to become how we broadcast our own personalities to our "tribe" (followers/friends/subscribers/circle-mates).

You can get feedback, opinions, recommendations, warnings, tips and tricks, recipes and find out the latest and coolest restaurant - all in the palm of your hand. It's far easier to "post" or text something than to call someone, get voicemail and play phone tag for 2 days. Why wouldn't people include others in their choices and decisions?

I don't think it's a matter of social media "making" us do anything, instead it's "enabling" us to have more communication (if we choose) - to update friends and relatives with birthday pictures and videos (without having to talk them through how to open an attachement in their email for 2 hours).

People, in general, are like water - they take the path of least resistance. That's why fax machines caught on (instant, free communication), same thing with email, same with cell phones, and now with social media.

Even though I think we're still in the infancy of public and personal "tribes" - there will no doubt be some clever person, somewhere that will link it all together into a "seamless" whole. Then the software and hardware can adapt to your situations and present what you need, when you need it - in context.

Then Skynet will be born, and fate of the human race will be reduced serving our mechanical overlords... ahem. But I digress.

Bottom Line: It's here to stay. Deal with it. Or cancel your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, Orkut, Posterous, accounts and go buy a paper - printed on newsprint (if you can still find one).

P.S. The party this past weekend was organized and coordinated.... 100% over Facebook.

What do you think? Is social media making us less social?


Johan C. said...

100% organized over Facebook?!
come on Facebook is soo last year!


Bob Cusick said...

Yeah, I know, right?!?

But I think it will take a while for "normal" people to join G+. I think it will be like LinkedIn - where people use LinkedIn for business and Facebook for personal - geeks will use G+ only.


ageing hipster said...

My biggest problem with Facebook is its time-vampire qualities - the time it soaks up that used to go into more productive activities - I used to spend a lot of time messing about with photos, music, my own website and blog... I know a lot of that now gets diverted to batting trivia around on Facebook..
Great blog, by the way...

Bob Cusick said...

"My biggest problem with Facebook is its time-vampire qualities - the time it soaks up that used to go into more productive activities"

Yes, and Amen, brother! :)

Thanks for your kind comments and your readership!

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