Nothing anti-social about social networks

Recently I’ve seen some serious propaganda on the anti-social aspects of social networking.

One example was the totally bogus quote from Einstein that tried to associate smartphone usage with idiocy.

Funny Pictures | quotes idiots  | A generation of idiots

Another was the Look Up video by Gary Turk, which I found infuriating. What a preaching pile of crap.

image

I eventually had a light bulb moment – maybe the group of people complaining about the anti-social social networks are annoyed at no longer being the focus of attention. In the past, their friends and family would have to talk to them as there was no alternative, regardless of how interesting (or not) they were.

Gary Turk admits to be being lonely and feels the smartphone technology doesn’t help. If you could just put away the phone, everything would be so much more enriched. This just seems so ignorant of how complex social interaction is. He suggests that you may be letting your future partner walk on by if you are stuck on your phone. That’s so very unlikely. Partners come from your social circle – your workplace, university, whatever. Sure, you may bump into someone by chance that changes your life but then being hit by a bus  can do that too – although, admittedly, the latter is more likely to happen if you are reading tweets on the run.    

Love the technology

The world is changing but, in a number of fundamental ways, is still the same.

  • At secondary school in the 1970s, there was always a sci-fi paperback in my blazer pocket. When I travelled there and back by bus and on foot, I’d be reading. I had no interest in talking to anyone else on the way that I didn’t know. Now I have a Kindle app on my phone and so have a dozen books in my coat pocket to read on the train to and from work. The technology has not changed me in the respect.
  • If I’m not reading an eBook then I’m listening to a podcast. I have many hours of content on my Zune to listen to when I’m on the move. Or if I don’t feel like it, some music, or nothing at all when I can look at the world around me. If I’m listening to, and concentrating on, a podcast then it’s likely there’s not much going on around me to be social about. There are only so many different ways I can get to work and it takes a lot to make rows of terraced housing interesting week on week.
  • At university in the 1980s, I started a fanzine with a miniscule circulation and was part of a global community connected by the postal system. I would write my own content, send letters to other people’s fanzines, play PBM games and so on. The highlight of the day was when the postman arrived and I still remember when 18 fanzine-related items arrived in one go. Today, with a WordPress app on my phone, I can maintain a blog which people around the world can interact with instantly (or at least when they wake up). Email, texts, tweets and messages can be sent and received at any time of day or night. It’s the same but better.
  • When I worked at Reading College of Technology in the late 80s, the students would sit at green-screen terminals and send messages to each other via the email system running on the microVAXs. They would all be sitting in the same room and typing instead of talking, just like teenagers on their smartphones today.

If you find something in the modern world that you think is anti-social or stupid, it’s probably because you don’t really understand what’s going on and are facing challenges in adapting to the changes around you.

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