Had a talk with with my wife about the state of social media and our über connectedness. It’s really kind of depressing. We are creating more connections for ourself, but are those connections really meaningful?
I have 250+ friends on Facebook, 100 (+/- Note: haven’t checked today) followers on Twitter, can’t remember how many people I follow, and I think I still have my MySpace page. Out of all those people I am friends with on Facebook, I may only keep track of 50, maybe 60, people. Most of the time I am barraged with game requests, fan page updates, or updates on where Friend X is eating inside the Mega Walmart that just opened up near their house.
And email? Who has time? I have an inbox stuffed with friend requests, work requests, some guy in Nigeria who needs my help moving money, and tips on how to in… improve my manhood. Oh, and then there are the box store emails I don’t read, the newsletters that I have subscribed to that I don’t even open, and I may have an email from a friend in there… somewhere.
Hell, we don’t we even need to think or wonder about anything anymore. Got a question? JFGI (Just Fucking Google It). Have a theory? Blog it. Got a dilemma? Get thee ass to a forum-ery. All matter of information is available to us at the touch of a button. We can share as instantly as we receive.
We have laptops, eBook readers, smart phones, super smart phones, tablet based computers, media servers, Facebooking, FourSqareing, texting, sexting, multimedia messaging, and the occasional super poke. The one thing that is not in this list is talking. Instead we have chosen to shout over each other. It’s like being at the family Thanksgiving dinner where people spend more time one upping the other person than having any real, meaningful conversation.
As Jeff Goldblum postulated in Jurassic Park; we’ve spent so much time patting ourselves on the back for the things we can do, we haven’t asked ourselves if these are things we SHOULD do (and yes, I just compared modern communication technology to the cloning of velociraptors #EPICgeekWin). Out of all of this technology, these great interaction tools, these next big things, are any of these really meaningful? Is there any temperance? Other than when the movie starts, does anybody ever turn off their cell phone? Most don’t even turn off their phone for the movie.
Working in the interactive field, the trend is to try to make the next big social marketing app. How do we connect our customer to our product? How do we keep them connected? How do we incentivise it? However, ask the question how do we make it meaningful, and you will get a lot of blank stares. There are a lot of theories on the idea, but most rely on the premise that if you observe the user’s actions you will get so much data on his/her likes/dislikes that you can target ads, incentives, and messaging to that user. In other words, pay attention to the numbers, and then do what the numbers say. The one thing that is not taken into account is whether the user would actually say that the action was ever meaningful. Deriving meaning from an action is momentary, or within the moment. Once that moment is over, does that meaning still exist?
My favorite recent headline in regards to a social marketing campaign had to do with an organic farm having the largest virtual blueberry patch grown in one of the world’s largest online farming games (the one that displays it’s annoying banner everyday in my Facebook news feed). This, to me, is like saying I got the first prize for being the world’s tallest midget. Who freaking cares? I am glad knowing that the virtual crop will feed the virtual people, but come on. Is this really news, or just a bunch of marketers stroking their… egos. Sure it promotes organic farming, but does that really get people to buy locally grown crops, or stop buying processed crap from the one-stop shops? The Target near my house is putting in a produce section. That freaking scares me.
I am sure for some people these new tools allow a means of communication that they could not have before. People with mobility limitations, shut-ins, or limited social venues may see social networking as the opening of a door that they didn’t have before. But what about the rest of us? When you go out to a restaurant, look at the number of people on their smart phones. When you go to the movies or the mall, look at the number of kids hanging out texting each other – instead of talking. When you are at the store check to see how many children are yelling “mom, mom, mom, mom” or “dad, dad, dad, dad” and then look to see what device the parent is glued to. It’s freaking insane. There are a lot of really great applications that we use daily, but more often we schedule our days around the applications rather than scheduling how we use our application around our day.
We don’t make any real connections anymore. We let technology make them for us, and the end result is that we spend most of our time shouting over each other. There are no conversations taking place, no real discussions, just a bunch of moderated noise.
We have focused so much on interactive communication that we are losing real-time, actual, interpersonal communication. Social media is dominating us. It’s not a tool. It’s the Matrix. Social Media is the new Agent Smith. And I see it in our kids. The day my 4 year old grabbed my iPhone and dialed in YouTube, but was still not able to form a sentence, was the moment I knew that there was a problem. I plugged him in. Maybe not on purpose, but trying to do the best I could I wound up taking the easy road simply out of frustration and exhaustion — and he’s paying the price for my modern-aged laziness (the one parenting move that I will never forgive myself for). I am not averse to my children using technology, it’s just that it needs to be gradual and tempered with common sense. Handing a toddler an iPod possesses neither of those qualities.
Enough of my ranting, I need to update my Netflix queue, and retweet the latest Justin Bieber tweet.