Social Networking/Media – Inevitable? Necessary?

I’m a little bit fascinated by the negative press that surround social networking and social media.  Maybe I have a distorted view of the “dangers” of all this social-ness because I’ve been an active participant for half my life – even back before the days of the Internet, through online bulletin board style connectors.  I was a teenage social networking surfer long before most of society had caught on to the phenomenon and started setting off the warning bells to parents that social networking was the bane of all things good. 

So, now that you have a little more of my history, it shouldn’t be a major surprise to you that I roll my eyes a bit at the scare media that loves to  frighten the public with tales of social networking horror on the 11:00 news.  To me, social networking/media were inevitable and necessary, and here’s why:

  • If you can’t trust the news, who can you trust? 
    Let’s face it.  News media these days is generally more about taking a particular side and blasting your opponent, or creating a sensation out of an exception, than it is about anything real.  News shows are about ratings.  Newspapers are about sales.  Trust is for sale to the highest bidder or is at the mercy of the article writer, and you can usually find a dissenting opinion or a conflicting scientific study with 30 seconds worth of Internet research.  The beauty of social networking and media is that WE have the ability to quickly and easily say something true to one another.  I can’t point you to the mainstream media with any confidence, but I can tell you what I know, and have experienced, and how I’m living – and you can share the same back – and we create something that is REAL.  We can bypass the silly money-hungry filters of the media marketplace and put the truth out in an immediate and global fashion (see the Iran election).  And sure, some people will still lie, but the truth comes out eventually…and the ridicule of the social web is a pretty good deterrent..
  • Privacy is an illusion.
    I’m not talking about common sense safety precautions.  Don’t tell the world you’re going on a 10-week vacation, have just bought the Hope diamond, and are leaving it on the dining room table.  No, I’m talking about our sudden fear that the world might know what you actually think and feel and do.  True, people put embarrassing and revealing details about their lives up through social networking.  However, if we were doing it in private before and just not telling anyone about it – or worse yet, were actively hiding it – is the problem really social networking, or is the problem within us?  Who you are in private is who you are.  I say, let the light shine on in.  Oh, and if you’re worried about your teenager “liking” something stupid or taking a stupid picture, trust me when I say that the middle managers of tomorrow are going to be their peers, so this whole “oh no, you’re never going to get a job” panic isn’t long-term reality.
  • Miles ain’t nothing but a number.
    Our historical definitions for community have only been limited by our ability to effectively communicate over long distances.  With capable technology and social networking tools, why shouldn’t my community of friends and family extend its borders to a global limit?  I got my first birthday greeting this year from the Philippines.  I know that there is a general fear that social networking breeds shallow relationships, but as someone who has been building relationships via text for most of my life, I think that criticism is a reflection of having to learn to build relationships in a new way.  If you’ve been doing it most of your life, trust me when I say it feels more normal than most normally accepted ways of making connections.  And social networking gives greater relationship-building opportunities for personality types that don’t connect to more traditional ways of making friends. 

Well, I could write a longer blog, but I want to go check my Facebook.  Oh, and Twitter.

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6 responses to “Social Networking/Media – Inevitable? Necessary?”

  1. Ruth Hubbard says :

    I’m so with you on this one, Jennifer. I was laughing recently at a friend who was worried about having a photo posted on Facebook. It wasn’t an incriminating photo, even with a wild imagination. It was a photo. I’m thinking — you walk out into public all the time and let people see you there. Why not on line? Yes, I get basic common sense for my cyber socialization JUST like my f2f socialization. I suppose the primary difference is that so many people have the potential of passing along so much information (relatively unchecked) in such a short period of time. Still…that can be good or bad.

  2. Dorothea Lander says :

    Extremely well said, Jennifer…and now I’m going to go check my fb, too. 🙂

  3. Bob says :

    I think you need to allow for two things – The hue and cry about the dangers of social networking are mostly generated by 2 groups – the mainstream media looking for something to grab viewers’ attention; and well-meaning, reactionaries who fear for the naive and gullible individuals who do announce they are going on vacation and leaving the Hope Diamond on their table. So, apart from being annoying, what is the harm?
    As far as the news and information aspect – I’m not so sure I agree. It’s true that there is a decline in the quality, authority and veracity of mainstream media. But I don’t think that the open access nature of the internet necessarily equals truth or even an absence of a hidden agenda. Furthermore, those greedy capitalists are up all night trying to figure out how to do the same thing to the internet. And, to drive my point further, there is a strong contingency on line who are of the opinion that net neutrality is a joke or are against it or have no idea what the issue even is.
    Finally, I’d like to point out, that in spite of the fact that you have grown up with social networking, you are also now married, with a beautiful family and a career. You aren’t living in your parent’s basement and spending 18 hours a day cultivating your social circle. In other words, to the best of my knowledge, you can have a drink – you’re not an alcoholic. It’s a balance which you are capable of achieving. Not every one is as fortunate. Does that mean I think alcohol or the internet is evil? No – but I still recognize that – given the wrong circumstances, it can be very destructive to some people’s lives.
    The internet and social networking aren’t bad – they just sometimes do bad things. To overreact is just as bad as to try to suggest there isn’t a problem at all.

    • greatweirdness says :

      Bob, I totally hear what you’re saying. As someone mentioned on Twitter, moderation is a key thing. Of course, that’s true about anything. Human beings have an amazing capacity to become addicted to just about anything. I’d love to see us, as a society, find better ways to help people work through that issue. When the message becomes all about the medium being the problem, rather than our capacity to use mediums for bad things – well, that’s why I get frustrated.

      And in a similar fashion, I agree with you on the truth issue. I guess social networking options just help me to feel like I have some control. That I have the ability to put something out there that I know is real and tangible. I don’t have the same ability to get the word out via one of our local news stations (at least, not without doing things I’m not okay with doing – I suppose I could get airtime if I broke the law, for instance…)

      All that to say, your comments reflect many of my feelings as well. I appreciate that you think I’m well-adjusted :).

      • Bob says :

        One thing I didn’t mention is the section on ‘miles ain’t nothing..’ This is where I agree with you the most. Back in the 60’s Marshall Mcluhen predicted that mass media such as TV was creating a ‘Global Village’ which breaks down the barriers of distance and brings people together in real time. He didn’t know the half of it then. But he also predicted that the removal of barriers would lead first to a clash of cultures before there was a sense of unity. Nonetheless, I am also constantly amazed by the fact that I can collaborate and communicate with co-workers in India or anywhere else in the world in real time, (assuming one of us is willing to work very early or very late.) or share life experiences with complete strangers across the globe. I have a hard time seeing how that could be a bad thing for humanity.

  4. Russ says :

    Great post, Jen. I love being able to connect with friends and family that are far away or just in the office next door.

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