Not sure if you have read this article in the Guardian.
It’s a new article based on and old statement that’s been floating around for a while. I imagine it resurfaced due to the book ‘Alone Together’ hitting the UK shelves soon. Either that or there is little new to report on.
For those that only use Facebook the general thrust of the article rings true. Although on the whole the social web has evolved way beyond what the mainstream public use. The potential is only limited by our imagination. If the person stood at the bus stop is forever head down checking their Facebook wall, then maybe they are only comfortable talking to people online and are not normally that sociable. Or perhaps they are connected to thousands and just on the way to meet a chunk of them. Just because they are not talking to the person stood next to them doesn’t mean they are not being sociable. Social interaction online is still social interaction.
If you are not at all empathetic then I can see how using technology to communicate with another human being may seem difficult and strange. This is not the fault of technology. It is down to us to listen more, to extract meaning from the information we are given. To become better readers of others. We have mastered how to communicate by telephone. Even though we have no access to facial expression, eye accessing cues and body language. It’s still early days for these new tools and once the initial explosion is over and the dust settles, we will see new and amazing ways to connect.
Location based applications using geotagging, particularly those on mobile devices are certainly bridging the gaps between the online spaces and what the non-users of these channels are calling ‘real life‘.
I can say from my own experience that my uses of these tools are often a talking point with those stood around me. Peak human experience exists in all these spaces. These are fascinating new words with our devices being the bridge between them. I enjoy sharing it with those that see this as digital witchcraft. You only have to show a couple of relevant uses for people to suddenly ‘get it’.
You can’t just dip into these channels and understand the interactions that are going on. You need to get involved or you risk sounding like every other lazy pundit that doesn’t take the time to understand as they state.. “I don’t want to know what you are having for breakfast!”
Those regurgitating this particular meme are probably not that interested in humanity anyway. It’s like walking into a public gathering and shouting “What are you all talking about and how is this relevant to me?!!”
I certainly talk to and meet more people IRL (in real life) now that I’m using these tools because I’m a person that likes to create new interactions anyway. It may be that I leave my village desk for a conference or geek meet, to grab a quick coffee with an new online connection, or some social experiment where I am purposely connecting with people in the real and virtual sense using these tools. i.e the Freebees project where I travelled from Lands End to John O’Groats with no money, just using social currency. http://Freebees.me
Some individuals are sociable and some are not. I’d hazard a bet there are more people experiencing new interactions with the social web that there are sociable types becoming ‘isolated’ like the article suggests. Huge swathes of socially impoverished disconnected people now have a voice and it is down to us to listen and connect. What might happen when these people suddenly have a voice? Will it be a democratisation of the media? Or a distortion? We need to keep questioning the blogs. Perhaps that questioning will remind to also hold the mainstream media to account.
The call for some kind of ‘Netequette’ sounds suspiciously like someone asking for more rules and regulation. After new forms of back channel communication and information sharing have spurned organisations like Wikileaks, I don’t have to make too large a tin foil hat to see a social technology backlash would be nurtured by some other ‘well connected’ members of society. After all, the person on the street with a mobile device is now more connected than ever before. With more information at their fingertips than you average i.p blocked government office.
I totally agree with peoples growing inability to digest large complex amounts of information. Although can only really speak from my own experience. I seem to be buying more books but reading less larger works. On the whole I am reading more though. I use the Read Later bookmark tool to send articles I don’t feel I have time to read (mainly when I don’t feel like I want to sit at the computer) and that article gets synced to an app called Instapaper allowing me to read the article on my other more mobile devices like my phone, ipad etc. That person you see at the bus stop staring at his phone or iPad may be me reading the Guardian or some other online publication. Would I be less isolated hidden behind a broadsheet newspaper?
These new ways of communicating and sharing information are not going away. They will however become more refined as we also find new ways of managing our time. No doubt as we see greater adoption, those in the heart of this ‘backlash’ will quieten down as they begin to find these tools ‘more useful’.
i’m @Documentally on twitter