It struck me the other day, watching several phone potatoes doing their "social" thing, that while people are communicating more than ever – on phones and through (ahem) “social” networks and email and text messaging – that they (we!) might actually be more isolated than ever.
You know... Head down over the keyboard, smirking about that zombie bite you just got, or crunched up to our phone screen, hanging on to every word of that really useful twitter from Sally, about how she "likes the hot pepper dip" she's eating while she sits there alone twittering (sounds weird - doesn't it? Sally, sitting alone, "twittering"). Yeah - seems pretty isolating...
What I’m not sure of is whether we are using time which we would be alone anyway to now communicate with others, or are we taking time which we otherwise might have spent with others, physically, to now be alone? Have we just harmlessly, and maybe beneficially, moved the communicating part into bits, bytes and broadband? or have we lost something?
So the “networking” part of “social networking” isn’t arguable, but is it really “social”? I know that It’s more interesting for me when I am in the physical presence of people with whom I want to socialize, but I just don’t have that much time to socialize in the same physical location with others as much as I’d like.
So maybe that’s the key to “social networking” – maybe it makes up for our modern compression of time, to allow us to continue to communicate with others without the normal requirement to plan it and physically travel to a common location. Maybe it’s just like video conferencing at work, which, in theory, saves a trip. The experience is not as satisfying and not as productive, but it’s good enough. So “social networking” is really more like “virtual socializing” ? That puts a negative spin on “Socializing”, rather than a positive spin on “Networking”... but who wants to admit that our lives are just so full of interesting things that we’ve had to downgrade our social experience... Yuck – that sounds really negative – where actually, it’s only negative if technically-based social networking has replaced physical socializing.
It’s actually a positive change if we haven’t reduced real socializing but rather use online social networks and our mobile phones as an add-on to getting together with friends... yeah... I love virtually-social-electronic-communication... really, I do.