The Anti-Social, Social Network

Are you tired of "being social"?

I'm not talking about real-life dinners with friends, cocktail parties, or weekend tennis. I'm referring to reading the faux news of your friends, or worse, "friends," instead of sharing actual moments with them.

In a great twist of irony, social networks have not only made us less social, they have made us more socially awkward.

We no longer need to pick up the phone and call someone, because we can read about their exploits on Facebook. We don't need them to regale us with stories of their last great adventure because we already saw the photos on Instragram and saw it exaggerated courtesy of Hipstamatic.

Is this what we want our relationships to be: news snippets?

Exhibitionists and Voyeurs
We are evolving into a society that is either shamelessly broadcasting our exploits, or silently watching the exaggerated exploits of others.



How will this play out in ten years?

As a culture, I believe we will tire of this. I sure hope so. Facebook has become an extension of our reality show obsession; it gives every person the chance to be a mini-celebrity.

With one small, but crucial problem: Most people just aren't that interesting.

When do we get bored of reading the mundane status updates of people we haven't talked to in a decade? When do we tire of perusing the photos of someone we have never met in person?

There is a guy I have never met who friended me on Facebook, and for some reason posts daily pictures of his abs that appear in my newsfeed. It is absurd. I would rather get late-night phone calls from Charlie Sheen -- hell, even Martin Sheen.

I Have Seen This Movie Before
Sadly, this is history repeating itself. In 1999, every company was faced with the same challenge every individual faces on Facebook today: rising above the noise.

It was the effect of too many dollars being spent marketing too many poorly polished messages and me-too products. It was disastrous. After a while, consumers just started tuning everything out.

A Return to Substance
Like the sock puppet of yesteryear, this, too, will fade; I believe (and hope) that we are merely passengers on the boat of transition.

The amazing thing about every technology revolution is that society eventually figures out the ideal use case, even if it is an oft-bumpy road. The creators of the Web never imagined a platform that would enable the rich applications we have today. The inventors of YouTube never imagined it enabling brilliant education in the poorest parts of the world. The folks at Microsoft never envisioned the extent the hacking community would embrace the Kinect (and most of us never envisioned something so brilliant coming from Microsoft).

The really exciting part is ahead of us. There are fascinating uses for today's technologies that will have profound effects beyond the initial design. Here are but a few examples:

·       Facebook has created the largest database of humans and their family connections ever built. If you could overlay this database with health information, you could bring unthinkable efficiencies to the organ donor problem and countless others.

·       The Microsoft Kinect (seriously, I bet even Microsoft was surprised it was that good) enables totally new ways of interacting with your computer that extend far beyond the gaming purpose it was created for. One brilliant example was created by a team in Germany that used a Kinect to generate real-time 3D imagery to provide "sight" for blind people.

Publishing itself has been transformed in the last decade. While we witnessed the decline of print, we also watched the meteoric rise of socially driven news that informs in real time. It has rallied millions of people to a cause in minutes, and helped overthrow a government in weeks.

In 1939, the American Society of Law Proceedings published a simple statement thought by many to be a Chinese curse. It said, simply, "May you live in interesting times." More than any other point in history, our society is being transformed by technology. The only question remaining is the outcome.

The few survivors that have been in the eye of a tornado described it as calm and peaceful, but filled with overwhelming energy. It isn't until long after a storm passes that you get a clear view of its impact.

While I rest from Facebook fatigue, I can't help but imagine what it brings with it.

8 comments about "The Anti-Social, Social Network ".
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  1. Russell Cross from Prentke Romich, June 30, 2011 at 11:59 a.m.

    I'm ready to sign up on your "anti-social network," where you, by default, are automatically "friends" with everyone and the game is to get rid of them!!

    There's a great little song from a relatively unknown Belgian band called "Fish on Friday" and it's called "Star." It's all about how everyone is a "star" - but only in their own minds and Facebook pages! "We're all stars among stars!"

    You're spot on with the notion of how social networks can make us less social. MIT Professor Sherry Turkle has an excellent book called "Alone Together:Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other," which discusses this very issue.

    We do, indeed, live in interesting times. Virtually.

  2. Melissa Lande from lande communications, June 30, 2011 at 12:03 p.m.

    The best thing about being social is that you can connect to people that it would have been awkward to connect to in the past -- people from your past -- If you had written an e mail to them they might think you were crazy. Social media helps you be a little bolder than you may have been, and connect. But once connected- then what? It feels like you're in the world more? Maybe you can get some business? Maybe you can MEET in real time and in the flesh? When this happens-- it is truly great. But generally -- connecting in REAL LIFE has been substituted with avatar life. It's the THEN WHAT that matters. You can keep up with them, see their families. No they are not that interesting but then again -- we're just people, not HBO. The problem is that because everyone is addicted (and as you say, exhausted) by their superficial engagement efforts on social media, what gets accomplished? Zombie land. Yes, you're right. Walk down any street. Is there anyone with whom you can practice your social skills of "being here now?" Or are they all glued to their smartphones being zombies. Your article pretty much sums it up. We are certainly living in ironic times, and times tend to recycle. These kind of times will not recycle -- we're just going to become more unreal. We're all going to become storytellers. I guess all that is recycled is the great question of all time: WHAT IS REALITY?

  3. Richard Aylward from Hallmark Data Services, June 30, 2011 at 12:05 p.m.

    So true. I know I'm not that interesting. Facebook and all the others seem to have become mosh pits. But as you point out unseen benefits arise.

    Do you think the new Google+ will bring order?

  4. Bruce May from Bizperity, June 30, 2011 at 12:25 p.m.

    Do you remember how useless the phone was when it was first invented? Of course not; you weren't there. But you should read about it because at the time it was rarely used except for emergencies in part, because all lines were party-lines; everyone who lived around you could listen to everything you had to say so you didn't say much of anything. What does that remind you of? We've got a long way to go before this overload of technology matures to the point that we really feel comfortable with it and where it provides really valuable solutions that enhance our lives without causing us pain.

  5. David Lozovsky from Walk Light Media, June 30, 2011 at 12:29 p.m.

    Great article David as i read through it I decided to check if the domain was taken, unfortunately it was but perhaps facebook will finally listen and add a dislike button and just like googels +1 begin to relegate the uninteresting irrelevant noise further down our feeds and use an algorithm to show us only the stuff we care about.

    I have been thinking this for some time but you put my thoughts into prose, well said my friend!

  6. Rodney Brooks from ToTouch One, Inc, June 30, 2011 at 12:29 p.m.

    I think we are already a society of Exhibinistists and Voyeurs. As long as TV shows like Entertainment Tonight or Access Hollywood or publications like People or US Weekly exist, we will be watching what others do no matter how ordinary it may be. What Beyonce or Barry Bonds does on a daily bases is no more or less interesting then what your neighbor or high school friend is doing; we just like to see into everyone else's lives and compare it to our own.

  7. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, June 30, 2011 at 12:31 p.m.

    David, may you be spot on.

  8. David Koretz from Adventive, Inc., June 30, 2011 at 1:40 p.m.

    @Richard, No, I don't think Google +1 solves the problem.

    I think there is an opportunity for a new social network that is focused on helping you connect in more meaningful ways, with a focus on real-life.

    Someone like Foursquare may extend to capture this.

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