The social space on the Net is a wondrous thing. Watching its explosive growth makes the head spin. Let me say up front that I’m neither against it, nor afraid of its future development. But, like democracy, it has its messy side.
I was Googling the Olympic hockey schedule and noticed that Google searches now return Twitter entries. Oh oh. While I’m searching for ‘waste disposal’, am I now going to be finding bowel movement updates? (Before you snicker, I saw a posting by one of my Facebook friends this morning on this precise subject.)
The collective power of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and their multiple offspring constitutes nothing less than a personal broadcasting network of almost unlimited reach. It also represents the potential for an avalanche of minutiae, trivia and outright nonsense that might overwhelm the senses and degrade our power to think (or, at least, concentrate). It already challenges the capability to dream up definitions for it.
A lot of what I see reminds me of the manic hand waving in public school for a teacher’s question where more than one kid “knew” the answer – “Pick me; pick me; I’ll do ANYTHING to get your attention!” (and that includes disclosing medications I’m taking, what I had for breakfast and that my dog just pooped in the yard).
Another challenge in this space is separating the promoters from mere participators. The new mantra of the social space is “trust”. It supposedly flows from avoiding overt sales pitches and crass sales-oriented promotion. Instead, one must be increasingly alert to the veiled sales pitch. For every “doing it just for the love of it” blogger, there’s an Arianna Huffington wannabe aspiring to transform their digital Rolodex into an irresistible pied piper for eyeballs.
I saw a sitcom the other day that hinted at the pitfalls of the artificial closeness that interacting in the social space can create. (I suppose it might be more accurate to call it the illusion of closeness.) In this episode, one of the characters had an emotional episode arising from being “de-friended” on Facebook. I got to wondering whether there might be more than a few emotionally fragile types out there, so dependent on their cyber-community for social connection, that a mass de-friending (equivalent to a medieval shunning) might well send them irretrievably over the edge. While it could make for a hilarious sitcom episode, it might make for a seriously tragic real-life event.
Broadcast carefully, my “friends”.