Does Social Media Make Us Less Social? What's Your Experience?
Pinterest continues to be the social media hot topic, astounding us with its colossal breakthrough in popularity. Now I’m a pretty big fan of Pinterest, but a recent NPR article discussing the ever-growing social bulletin board site got me thinking about the lack of “social” interaction within the social media sphere.
As NPR interviewer Teresa Tomassoni notes, “… online interaction with people you don't know is an emerging trend in social media.” While this is absolutely true, something about that statement seems counter-intuitive. Susan Etlinger, an Altimtere Group analyst, observes that while people look to connect with others who share a similar style or interest,
"It doesn't mean that we're best friends or connected on Facebook, but it means these are people that I learn from and who also maybe learn from me."
Stop me if I’m wrong, but I always thought that the point of meeting new people is that, hopefully, you’ll find someone you share a rich connection with, and can then go on to form a meaningful relationship with that individual. Proclaimed social media sites like Pinterest remove a lot of the social process. Not that we don’t ask for it– who has time to actually talk to people these days?
Social Should be a Conversation
I’m not sure about other users’ experiences, but when I first started roaming the vast lands of the internet long ago, forming relationships was a big objective. Alright, so they often were the kind of meaningless, silly relationships kids always make. I had a friend I met on Neopets, a site for creating and caring for virtual pets. We’d earn Neopoints together and buy clothes and food for our digital dogs. Another online pal and I would simultaneously watch “Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction” – an (awesome) television show in which viewers would be regaled with paranormal tales and had to guess which stories were true and which were works of fiction. Together we’d make bets on the stories and see who was correct.
While these weren’t rich, complicated friendships, at least there was some kind of conversation and substance to them.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Pinterest and its acceptance and encouragement of my hoarding tendencies. I’m never going to cook all those recipes or knit all those sock puppet patterns, but knowing they are pinned in a virtual pile somewhere puts me at ease. But when you take a step back, it just seems strange to learn and share things actively with people we don’t even want to know more about. It feels a bit like using someone for their creativity and imagination, but not really caring to know them. I visualize it as a conversation like this:
Me: "Hey, look at these neat photographs I took the other day!"
Online Stranger: "Wow, I like these a lot, they're so cool."
Me: "Thanks! I’ve been interested in photography for a while now, and here I tried to set the shutter spee—"
Online Strange: “Hey guys, look what I found!” Walks away holding photographs.
A discussion about a favorite piece of art should be more than just a thumbs up, and really sharing something should be more than just the clicking of a button. And yet on Facebook, the place where you can interact with all your closest companions, the conversation rarely extends past that. You’ll get some “likes” confirming that others appreciate your taste in art, but don’t expect to enter into a dialogue about the composition, emotion, or narrative behind the picture.
Do people even visit chat rooms anymore? I’m sure the ones that do exist are incredibly seedy.
It just seems hilarious that with all this talk about the growing important of the social influence and social media platforms, there is sometimes very little real social activity taking place.
So online marketers, just remember what social interaction is really about. Yes, you need to keep track of how many likes and +1s and tweets you're reigning in. But also try to encourage some real, meaningful discussion; because I think deep down, we all miss it a bit.
What do you guys think, am I completely delusional on this? Is social media becoming increasingly less social? And do people really like it that way?
(Read More: How to Get Social With Your Social Media Marketing)
This Week's Link Round-up
Here are my round-up links for the week, so that this post isn’t a total 100% rant.
- Search Engine Journal explains why increased social media activity could mean you’re more at risk for identity theft, since you’re probably more likely to share your birth date and the name of your beloved pet (a common password recovery question). Take the quiz and find out how at risk you are. The lesson: stop being so trusting.
- Facebook's new timeline design will be mandatory March 30th, so now is the time to start thinking up clever new ways to arrange your business's page. Kerry Jones at Blue Glass shows how to make the new timeline work for you.