PDA

View Full Version : social networking is killing society



matt b
15-10-2009, 04:33 PM
I just received this email:

"Hello, i am ****** ******, a former student of yours. I am currently studying media at ******* ******* and was wondering whether you would be able to do me an interview for a radio project on how social networking is killing society? I think you would be able to give a great interview. Please get in touch if possible"


Regardless of the somewhat simplistic premise (NOT that I would give a great interview, in case you were wondering), does anyone have specific (sociological) knowledge on social networking on the internet?

IIRC, Wayne (and Wax)'s wife does stuff around this (second life?) @MIT, and there's this documentary on MMPORGs (http://www.secondskinfilm.com/), but any more relevant suggestions appreciated.

As well as your general thoughts on the subject.


I want to sound clever and sophisticated, like wot you are, see?

Dusty
15-10-2009, 04:42 PM
Is it killing society? No one told me about this, sounds worrying.

john eden
15-10-2009, 04:47 PM
I don't have any sociological knowledge about anyfink... :D

I think the main issue is that the internet can facilitate specialisation, which is great in many ways.

But there is a risk that people increasingly form relationships with people who are just like them or share their niche interests (whether musical or sexual or whatever).

Which means that potentially your pool of friends becomes less diverse, and less based on location or face to face stuff.

I was talking to a friend of mine recently who was doing online chat with a view to getting a boyfriend and a large percentage of the blokes she found were basically only interested if she would immediately agree to fulfilling their specific sexual pecadillo. She wasn't so they were out of there, onto somebody else. It was very much like the dating process had been reduced to browsing ebay or something.

But I think the negative aspects of social networking are really just an acceleration of the atomisation of society anyway - this is a process which has been happening for some time before the internet came about. ("there is no such thing as society" etc).

So you'd have to look at how "civic" people felt in the sixties and seventies compared to now.

On the plus side it does allow people to hook up with others who live in their area and you do get groups evolving who do things off the net from that. Facebook has a bunch of groups for people who grew up in different parts of Hackney for example.

crackerjack
15-10-2009, 04:59 PM
there was a shock horror headline recently (ie this week) that said 50% of teenagers are happiest online. i saw it online(:o), couldn't tell you where (but one of the clever papers ), tho no doubt it's full of some heavy number crunching and 'we're all doomed' editorialising.

vimothy
15-10-2009, 05:06 PM
I'd love to reply in detail but I'm too busy working on a status update for facefuck.

3 Body No Problem
15-10-2009, 06:03 PM
The current generation of teenagers is the first that writes voluntarily and habitually. To be sure previous generations have written in school and as part of the job, but never -- as a generation -- voluntarily for expressive and social purposes.

This is gonna have an effect of some sort, not sure that it might be.

four_five_one
15-10-2009, 06:11 PM
there was a shock horror headline recently (ie this week) that said 50% of teenagers are happiest online. i saw it online(:o), couldn't tell you where (but one of the clever papers ), tho no doubt it's full of some heavy number crunching and 'we're all doomed' editorialising.

I'm probably happiest online to be honest. Especially when it comes to the awkward business of getting to know people. I'm not sure if this is a good thing though. For instance, I've just started university, and my usual tactic has been to meet people, almost immediately ask if they're on Facebook, and then not bothering to find out anything more about them (knowing I'll find out their likes/dislikes and much of their history from FB) -- then on the basis of this, judging whether I'll actually want to speak to them again in 'real life'.

I suppose it removes the element of surprise. If I find someone likes the same books as me, then I'll likely gravitate toward that person, and we'll end up talking about the books - 'facilitating specialization' I suppose.

nomadthethird
15-10-2009, 06:39 PM
The current generation of teenagers is the first that writes voluntarily and habitually. To be sure previous generations have written in school and as part of the job, but never -- as a generation -- voluntarily for expressive and social purposes.

This is gonna have an effect of some sort, not sure that it might be.

I think as a general rule, anything new (especially any new technology) that people are flipping out about and insisting will "ruin" society turns out to be just another thing to thread through that has good and bad sides.

But have you seen what these teens are writing? On the social networking sites?

I think it's good that people are getting over the initial thrill of novelty with them and seeing that they're just another tool that can be used for good or ill.

The utopian talk about their infinite openness and "classlessness" and "facelessness" (esp when it comes to friggin twitter) is just too much, on the other side.

(I notice that the more I rely on spellcheck the faster my ability to spell correctly/write intelligibly deteriorates. )

nomadthethird
15-10-2009, 06:41 PM
But there is a risk that people increasingly form relationships with people who are just like them or share their niche interests (whether musical or sexual or whatever).

Which means that potentially your pool of friends becomes less diverse, and less based on location or face to face stuff.

I was talking to a friend of mine recently who was doing online chat with a view to getting a boyfriend and a large percentage of the blokes she found were basically only interested if she would immediately agree to fulfilling their specific sexual pecadillo. She wasn't so they were out of there, onto somebody else. It was very much like the dating process had been reduced to browsing ebay or something.


I would argue that all of these things happen offline, too. In almost exactly the same manner and to the same degree, just with a tad more subtlety (in some cases, the last in particular).

john eden
15-10-2009, 07:52 PM
I would argue that all of these things happen offline, too. In almost exactly the same manner and to the same degree, just with a tad more subtlety (in some cases, the last in particular).

yes I think that's fair enough, so perhaps social networking just accelerates or intensifies these things?

Room with a view
15-10-2009, 09:28 PM
Virtual Communities: Abort, Retry, Failure?

By Jan Fernback & Brad Thompson (1995)

"Citizenship via cyberspace has not proven to be the panacea for the problems of democratic representation within American society; although communities of interest have been formed and strengthened...and have demonstrated a sense of solidarity, they have nevertheless contributed to the fragmented cultural and political landscape of the United States..."

http://www.well.com/~hlr/texts/VCcivil.html

__________________________________________________ ____________________

Virtual Communities and Social Capital

Anita Blanchard and Tom Horan (1998)

Robert Putnam (1993) has developed a theory of social capital to explain the effect of decreasing community participation and civic engagement on declining institutional performance. Subsequently, there has been much speculation as to whether emerging virtual communities can counteract this trend. We apply the findings of computer-mediated communication and virtual communities to the networks, norms, and trust of social capital and also examine the possible effects of virtual communities on the privatization of leisure time

http://www.igi-pub.com/downloads/excerpts/garson.pdf

__________________________________________________ ____________________

Looking For Social Capital in Online Virtual Communities

Jeff Elliot (2005)

( virtual)Communities that exhibit highly cohesive forms of social capital are thus not necessarily beneficial to the overall society. Cohesive communities that manifest strong social capital may exclude others from entering into the communities, and this can lead to abuses that harm the community.

http://www.usask.ca/education/coursework/802papers/elliott/index.htm

martin
15-10-2009, 10:42 PM
I dunno, I find it a bit sad (in the actual melancholic sense) that four five one describes getting to know people as an "awkward business". I doubt social networking's killing society, but maybe the fact that certain social relations are being torn apart is feeding into FB's popularity, rather than the other way round.

Take, for instance, Matt B - I have met him in real life, and found him an utterly pleasing character. However, online, he has brought my name into disrepute by accusing me of being 'Room with a view' - and, for this crime, I demand a 75 Paypal apology fee, or a duel outside Euston Station before Xmas.

Also, I totally disagree with 3 Body about today's young generation being the first to 'voluntarily and habitually write' for 'expressive and social purposes' -if you laid out all the fanzines produced in the 80s and 90s, they'd stretch to Mars.

cobretti
15-10-2009, 10:50 PM
I dunno, I find it a bit sad (in the actual melancholic sense) that four five one describes getting to know people as an "awkward business".

Same for me, but it was the judging from their likes/dislikes on Facebook thing that I found jarring. I'm a bit guilty of this myself in a way, seeing what people are in to and what they do with their time and letting that inform my opinion of them, whereas in a time before Myspace/Facebook etc, I'd have to let my face to face interactions with them tell me whether or not they are a genuinely nice person, or someone I'd like to know better. Maybe I'm just seeing the pre-internet/pre web 2.0 era through crazy utopian specs, I suppose the same thing would still happen 10/20 years ago but just through hearsay instead of the internet, but I can't shake the feeling that social networking and the internet in general has a negative effect on the way people relate to each other.

mixed_biscuits
15-10-2009, 10:53 PM
I prefer my conversations to be embodied, so I can pick up on body language and whatever chemical signals that might be wafting about in the atmosphere.

There's a reason why businessmen fly halfway round the world to shake hands on a deal.

Room with a view
15-10-2009, 11:17 PM
There's a reason why businessmen fly halfway round the world to shake hands on a deal.

yeah, freebie holiday on the expense account!

mixed_biscuits
15-10-2009, 11:46 PM
yeah, freebie holiday on the expense account!

!

baboon2004
16-10-2009, 10:32 AM
I would argue that all of these things happen offline, too. In almost exactly the same manner and to the same degree, just with a tad more subtlety (in some cases, the last in particular).

I'd go with that - people just have to be slightly less direct in the 'real' world. It's always mystified me why people think that any online dating is that different from er, offline dating - the precise formulation of the relationship may be different, but the people and their desires/idiosyncracies/foibles are just the same at base.

On the original question (sort of), the phenomenon of people sending one friend invites on F***book (I went back on to retrieve some pictures from someone, and haven't left again, to my shame, tho I barely use it), without so much as a 'hello', and then not answering when you send a simple 'how have you been' message, not the most irritating thing in the entire world?

What is up with those people? i thought i was mildly desperate sometimes before facebook arrived, but it's made me realise how utterly desperate a significant proportion of people are to show they're liked, and I just don't care to half that extent. Is it social approbation they're seeking, or is it somehow linked in to a weird way of circumventing loneliness (a kind of idea that loneliness is not a lack of actual contact any more, but a lack of potential contact, so that IF you needed to, you'd have 420 people you could speak to, althought inevitably tht's not actually true....work with me here, I'm formulating as I'm writing...) ?

On the other hand, these things make me think I'm saner than most of the world, which is very therapeutic.

matt b
16-10-2009, 10:53 AM
Take, for instance, Matt B - I have met him in real life, and found him an utterly pleasing character. However, online, he has brought my name into disrepute by accusing me of being 'Room with a view' - and, for this crime, I demand a 75 Paypal apology fee, or a duel outside Euston Station before Xmas.


:)

matt b
16-10-2009, 11:03 AM
of course it's all symptom not cause- social networking has the ability to both enhance (community activism/this weeks Guardian injunction thing) and destroy (social atomisation etc).

I think the more interesting trend is how it is changing things like privacy- it seems that many young people don't feel they exist unless some record of everything they do is left on facebook/twitter etc.

Maybe facebook also facilitates individuals who in the past would have been isolated, to connect with likeminded sorts, thus allowing them/encouraging antisocial behaviour (e.g. the nursery abuse stuff).


OT: At work we are having to introduce save internet behaviour into our tutorials because Ofsted has decreed so.



Anyway, thanks for the comments

baboon2004
16-10-2009, 12:26 PM
I think the more interesting trend is how it is changing things like privacy- it seems that many young people don't feel they exist unless some record of everything they do is left on facebook/twitter etc.



i would add that it's not just teenagers who are affected this way - many 30-somethings I know (of) put up absurdly insiginificant details of their own life on their facebook updates.

Wonder how this type of film would have looked if made in the Twitter age:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeanne_Dielman,_23_Quai_du_Commerce,_1080_Bruxelle s

i think someone should remake it, in fact.

zhao
16-10-2009, 12:30 PM
the only thing better than wasting time online is reading people talk about wasting time online (edit) online.

that's one of mine.

3 Body No Problem
16-10-2009, 12:32 PM
Also, I totally disagree with 3 Body about today's young generation being the first to 'voluntarily and habitually write' for 'expressive and social purposes' -if you laid out all the fanzines produced in the 80s and 90s, they'd stretch to Mars.

You spent too much time of your youth in record shops and have a skewed view: what fraction of the population did write fanzines? Was it 0.0001$% or 0.00001%?. Sorry, but the new social media is on a totally different scale.

3 Body No Problem
16-10-2009, 12:44 PM
I prefer my conversations to be embodied, so I can pick up on body language and whatever chemical signals that might be wafting about in the atmosphere.

I often find the electronically mediated asynchronous communication introduced by the Internet preferable to F2F because it allows me to think for 10 seconds or 2 minutes before replying, to look up something in wikipedia etc. (Also one can multiplex several interactions at a time easily which is not really possible F2F.) This makes conversations much more substantial and interesting. I'm somewhat introverted and never, even as a child, saw the point of bantering. In pre-Internet days, that mean social death (especially for men, society is more tolerant towards introverted women). The main benefit of F2F is the presence of the body, which is also interesting, but in other ways. I expect future societies seeing F2F more clearly than we can do as bodily encounters (in a generalised sense that goes well beyond the obvious sexual interpretation).


There's a reason why businessmen fly halfway round the world to shake hands on a deal.

Yes, expense accounts (see above), restaurant dinners, hookers, less work more idle time, no supervision, and extending a business trip into a holiday.

zhao
16-10-2009, 12:44 PM
^ if you consider "OMG 4 real LOL" "writing", that is.

3 Body No Problem
16-10-2009, 12:47 PM
^ if you consider "OMG 4 real LOL" "writing", that is.

LOL OMG/writing = baby-talk/spoken-language

mixed_biscuits
16-10-2009, 02:13 PM
I often find the electronically mediated asynchronous communication introduced by the Internet preferable to F2F because it allows me to think for 10 seconds or 2 minutes before replying

F2F encounters are often dominated by those good at glib one-liners, with the speedy response times required lessening the likelihood of speakers coming up with anything original or risking something especially thought-provoking (as this would require long response times of the interlocutor). That said, there are often times where the pace of conversation is somewhat slower and attempting to pull off any silver-tongued shtick feels inappropriate.

I wonder if F2F meetings of previously online communities carry over some of the characteristics of online communication, such as longer response times and extended responses. Or even if there are any communities that have combined the two: a group of people sitting round a table drinking beer and swapping sweaty chemical signals whilst conducting the bulk of conversation on their Pocket PCs (Dissensus meet-up idea?)

Pestario
16-10-2009, 03:21 PM
"U smell nice LOL"

martin
16-10-2009, 04:47 PM
You spent too much time of your youth in record shops and have a skewed view.

Yeah, probably where I picked up useless social skills like engaging in 'banter' and not running to Wikipedia every time I want to reply to someone. But turning this argument on its head - what % of the populace has constant access to Facebook? And have you got any examples of how this is redefining 'social media'? Cos, of my last 5 FB updates from friends, the most interesting one was "Miiiaow"

3 Body No Problem
16-10-2009, 05:30 PM
Yeah, probably where I picked up useless social skills like engaging in 'banter' and not running to Wikipedia every time I want to reply to someone.

You probably went to Tower Records or HMV.


But turning this argument on its head - what % of the populace has constant access to Facebook?

Everybody between 12 and 25.

nomadthethird
16-10-2009, 07:59 PM
I'd go with that - people just have to be slightly less direct in the 'real' world. It's always mystified me why people think that any online dating is that different from er, offline dating - the precise formulation of the relationship may be different, but the people and their desires/idiosyncracies/foibles are just the same at base.

On the original question (sort of), the phenomenon of people sending one friend invites on F***book (I went back on to retrieve some pictures from someone, and haven't left again, to my shame, tho I barely use it), without so much as a 'hello', and then not answering when you send a simple 'how have you been' message, not the most irritating thing in the entire world?

What is up with those people? i thought i was mildly desperate sometimes before facebook arrived, but it's made me realise how utterly desperate a significant proportion of people are to show they're liked, and I just don't care to half that extent. Is it social approbation they're seeking, or is it somehow linked in to a weird way of circumventing loneliness (a kind of idea that loneliness is not a lack of actual contact any more, but a lack of potential contact, so that IF you needed to, you'd have 420 people you could speak to, althought inevitably tht's not actually true....work with me here, I'm formulating as I'm writing...) ?

On the other hand, these things make me think I'm saner than most of the world, which is very therapeutic.

I think I have a facebook IQ of about 25. I can't figure it out. I like it when people post links to articles and websites or youtube videos, but I just can't be bothered to follow the Twitter-like update-a-thon that's become the frontpage. Some people are really good with that aspect, though, and make use of it, so I can't say it's "bad"...I just don't care to log in every ten minutes to be sure I stay abreast of it.

Sometimes I'm on there to check my inbox and random messages pop up from people on the screen, and I didn't even realize I was on "chat" mode or whatever. This is the thing that finally did me in, especially because I got stuck once in a 4-hour conversation (if you want to call it that) along the lines of "listen to me pour over the details of my shitty relationship for clues that x is cheating on me". X happened to be one of my best friends from college who I knew damned well was cheating on the person. This put me in a very awkward position, as you can imagine. What do you even say?

Some conversations are better left unspoken. Some people from school are not really your "friends" anymore. It's nice to have their contact info, in case you're cruising through another city and want to hang out. But I do feel I've moved on in a sense and that I'm not really "friends" with all but a core group of my huge college posse anymore.

One thing I think younger people don't realize yet is that sometimes it's very nice to be unreachable. It's funny to think that there's a generation that's grown up with handheld electronic devices and never knew a life without them. Due to hectic urban lifestyles people don't make a big enough point of finding a place and a time in life where they're unreachable and can relax and be alone in their own thoughts. As you can imagine I'm pretty big on doing that, it's one of my (ideal, and hard to keep to) priorities right after hard work.

Edit: Have you noticed people in your classes doing AIM/instant messaging on their cell phones?? I sure have... drives me nuts...

Also, at the fucking movies! During the film! Even if the ringer's off the thing keeps lighting up over and over...kinda annoying...

padraig (u.s.)
16-10-2009, 10:59 PM
Everybody between 12 and 25...

...who lives in a place where there is reliable, cheap, fast Internet. which is not, after all, most places.


F2F encounters are often dominated by those good at glib one-liners, with the speedy response times required lessening the likelihood of speakers coming up with anything original or risking something especially thought-provoking

this is still true on the Internet. how often does anyone "risk something especially thought-provoking" in any medium? I think mainly it just lets us get away with more pretending to know what we're talking about. also, I'm with Martin - is it so terrible for people to have to develop a modicum of social skills via real world interactions? dudes make it sound like it's this hideous ordeal, yet somehow people managed before twitter & so on.

& co-sign @ nomad that nonsense about texting in class. seriously, it's an epidemic.

Room with a view
16-10-2009, 11:30 PM
i was on a date of sorts, more like a meet and greet with 2 ladies i met online and i took my mate along as wingman. we all ended up back at my apartment spending most of our time texting each other stuff to prompt conversation and other things best not said face to face. it was hilarious. to suddenly burst out laughing for no reason and cell phones lighting up every minute or so. thing is we were all playing along.

scottdisco
17-10-2009, 03:31 AM
F2F encounters are often dominated by those good at glib one-liners

bollocks.

i'd love to banter w 3BNP but they've already called me a cunt * on a politics thread so i'm off elsewhere to moan

* by cunt i mean apologist for Sudanese empire

luka
17-10-2009, 03:45 AM
face to face encounters are, presumably, dominated by people who have taken the time to develop social skills, who are witter, quicker, smarter and more interesting than you. these people care about society. they care about the enjoyment of others.

grizzleb
17-10-2009, 01:00 PM
I think that there was always some element of alienation even in face to face encounters, I think the difference is more about being more/less limited in terms of who you have the chance to talk to - 100 years ago your social circle would most likely be limited to your neighbours and co-workers, that may not have been so good if you were into a specialised subject like electronic music, but I'd imagine it would teach you about being humble with other people, and not basing friendships soley on things which can be actually fairly shallow, like similar interests. In my old work I made friends with lots of people who are outside of my normal social zone, old coots and the like, and that was something that made me more open to different people.

With sites like myspace, facebook, I think these pages often act as a stand in for the 'real' social interaction, so instead of getting your hands dirty by going to see those old friends from school or whatever, you just have this thing acting as your social representative, you can still say 'oh we keep in touch' when in reality you do nothing of the sort. Acknowledgement rather than sociality.

3 Body No Problem
17-10-2009, 05:07 PM
One thing I think younger people don't realize yet is that sometimes it's very nice to be unreachable.

They probably do, but (1) don't particularly care about it at that point in their life, where they are hypersocial, more than in any other phase of life, partly because they need to organise their sexuality, (2) there's an observation bias, because you don't notice when people are unreachable as much as when they are reachable.


It's funny to think that there's a generation that's grown up with handheld electronic devices and never knew a life without them.

It's funny to think that there's a generation that's grown up with shoes and never knew a life without them.


Edit: Have you noticed people in your classes doing AIM/instant messaging on their cell phones??

Speaking from the point of view of somebody how delivers lectures, I find that way less intrusive than (old-school voice) chatting.

mixed_biscuits
17-10-2009, 05:50 PM
It's funny to think that there's a generation that's grown up with shoes and never knew a life without them.

Once culturally embedded these mediatory devices and their apparent benefits are assumed, but, just as life shorn of our bristling communicational devices might actually be a better one, so might walking without shoes. It's funny that once the period of transition has been forgotten, the generation that witnessed it grown silent, a return to the previous or default position will come across as a strange, futuristic move:

http://www.popgadget.net/images/barefoot%20shoes%202.jpg

3 Body No Problem
17-10-2009, 06:03 PM
http://www.popgadget.net/images/barefoot%20shoes%202.jpg

Congratulations advertising industry, you have convinced Mixed Biscuits that wearing "Vibram Five Fingers" isn't in fact wearing a certain kind of shoe! Well done.

mixed_biscuits
17-10-2009, 06:07 PM
Congratulations advertising industry, you have convinced Mixed Biscuits that wearing "Vibram Five Fingers" isn't in fact wearing a certain kind of shoe! Well done.

You're right - you aren't any good at banter.

I think the idea is that this is the next best thing to going barefoot without cutting your feet to shreds on shards of broken Britain.

Gavin
17-10-2009, 07:28 PM
I recently had a strange experience of meeting a new group of colleagues, most around my age (late twenties-early thirties). Started off the typical awkward introductions, people tentatively feeling each other out, etc... After a couple days everyone had facebook friended each other and there was this overnight sea change into easy affability and familiarity, completely unearned (hadn't even gotten drunk together!). It was abrupt and palpable.

I was a bit off-put by it, because in person (or f2f - hah!) I prefer to get to know people slowly, preserving my mystique as much as possible, even relishing the agonizingly slow uncomfortable slide into acquaintance. Also everyone had researched each other, so I had suddenly become both a raging communist and a party boy, quite unintentionally. I had even neutered my facebook profile quite a bit to head off this eventuality, to little effect.

Now I'm wondering how inevitable personality-clashing of the next stage of group dynamics gets worked out... but it's such a passive-aggressive little medium that it's never very satisfying, unlike pseudo-anonymous blogs and message boards where people can really sink their fangs into each other.

zhao
17-10-2009, 08:41 PM
hi Gavin! did you get the comment i left on your blog?

Gavin
17-10-2009, 08:49 PM
hi Gavin! did you get the comment i left on your blog?

Yes, thanks for the links!

nomadthethird
17-10-2009, 09:39 PM
It's funny to think that there's a generation that's grown up with shoes and never knew a life without them.



Speaking from the point of view of somebody how delivers lectures, I find that way less intrusive than (old-school voice) chatting.

First point makes sense, but I don't really see where you're going with the shoe analogy...

There seems to be plenty of regular chatting, too. But it's a special kind of annoying on the part of those in the audience, all of the rustling and getting phones out of bags and pockets and loud vibrating noises...

P.S. hey Gavin!

nomadthethird
17-10-2009, 09:41 PM
You're right - you aren't any good at banter.

I think the idea is that this is the next best thing to going barefoot without cutting your feet to shreds on shards of broken Britain.

As ugly as those things are, they are probably far less likely to send you to a podiatrist later in life than fashionable shoes are.

zhao
18-10-2009, 08:25 AM
Yes, thanks for the links!

actually please delete the links after you've copied or used them...

this has been said already, but just to reiterate that there are people i adore and immensely enjoy spending time with who do not share any similar interests at all. or at least there were. (which is of course sad in the melancholic sense)

my girlfriend thinks these websites are all basically stupid and shallow, and i think she thinks experiences had off the grid or not recorded on it is more "real".

i joined MS and FB mainly to promote my music stuff, but have been sucked in by FB's efficient exchange method. i do like it a lot and all kinds of good things have happened in my life through it (but mostly related to music).

and to counter the "shallowness" accusation i just posted something deep on twitter (http://twitter.com/dj_zhao).