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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Social Media Makes Us Less Social

As a media artist (nice loose term for doing more than just film), I am told to really utilize social networking as it will connect me with "my audience." Go out there and add as many facebook friends as I can, even if I don't know them. Tweet daily, and constantly update my profiles in LinkedIn, pay the 17 dollars a month to have a presence on IMDB, blog constantly, put all of my videos on YouTube and Vimeo...it's enough to qualify as a full-time job.
I honestly don't care about Facebook and really many of the other social network outlets that exist.  I have some 160 "friends" or something like that on Facebook. I only add people whom I know or have known in some capacity.  I'm not one of those Facebook vampires that adds someone who is a cousin of someone who I met briefly at some club. I don't drool watching my friend number increment, but seeing how some have 1000 friends, I know that there are those who value the numbers game on Facebook.  In all honestly, I rarely read anyone's profile. There are probably only fifteen people out of that nearly 200 whom I have not blocked their news posts because I just can't handle all the stimulus of people posting their favorite videos of dancing dogs and cats, their baby pictures of either themselves or their own children, or just talking about some witty anecdote that requires me to do more research than I am willing to give time to.

I can guarantee you others have blocked my news feeds as well. Do we all really need hundreds and hundreds of friends? Facebook is like a photo album that talks, an address book that won't shut up. Why do I bother to even have a profile, you ask?  Because I do understand the power of promotion through the beast FB is.  And honestly, it's sometimes pretty damn cool to get an add request from an old high school classmate I was sure I'd never hear from again.

Now Twitter. Ok. I appreciate the fact that it forces one to be brief in their message, but I honestly cannot keep up with all the tweets, and seriously doubt anyone reads or cares about my tweets.

Vimeo? YouTube? I recently heard a talk by someone on the team of YouTube. Her focus was on copyright infringement but she gave some startling quote about how many hours of content are uploaded hourly. I wish I could give you those numbers but I can't remember them. But let's just say it was honestly mind boggling.

The point I am trying to make is that people feel the birth of social media and the ability of the internet to connect us to people we've lost track of actually brings us closer. I think they are dead wrong.  I still believe in the strength of real human-to-human contact (not a one night stand, a conversation). There is a lot more to communication when we are face-to-face with people that is beyond just the words we speak.  There is body language, the energy of the life in the eyes, and yes...for those looking to pick up a temporary or long term mate, there is a chemical thing going on as well with the scents we give off.  This is why our internet selves will never suffice for the flesh and blood selves.  There are things our brains are doing as we assess the physical person before us.  On the internet, on our numerous profiles, we only present what we THINK people should see of us. We choose flattering photos that we think present an attractive or cool side of us. We like to think we can be so manipulative of our appearance in public as well, but bits of who we really are sneak through, creating the whole complicated and sometimes fascinating human picture.

I worry that as we all add more friends, follow more people, link up, create more profiles, we will become inundated with the amount of information coming at us.  As we become more and more overloaded with the news feeds of our internet "friends," we start to block their posting, ignore their tweets, put off seeing their uploaded videos.  We are basically teaching ourselves to shut off from others. We are training ourselves to become poor listeners, and poor empathizers.  When we choose to follow or "like" postings by those who we feel have some celebrity clout, or some other redeemable social status, we are teaching ourselves to value the socially fortunate, and ignore those who really have no immediate value to us. How will this filter into the real interactions we make with each other?  Well, I don't really need to tell you. You can see it happening already.  We are glued to our phones. When in groups of others, people check their email and text messages constantly. Our phones lie on the dinner tables in restaurants when we go out to eat. People text while walking to their next destination, not making eye contact with others, not being aware of their immediate environment.  I feel this contributes to our poor attitude on environmental stewardship, but this is a different topic for a different day.

So, social networking will actually make us less socially apt creatures. It will have a reverse effect. 

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