Technology is nothing, it is just us

The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is de facto good. It is perhaps the only area where the metrics do tell the true story as far as we are concerned… Facebook.

Facebook, Twitter and the rest do not connect people. They never have and they never will. They merely take us away from the real connections in our lives and turn us into people who either want to show the world how wonderful our lives are or who are desperate for a few likes and some digital recognition that what we have posted online is worthy of praise.

That is of course a generalisation, but there is a growing sense that social networks are encroaching, or in some cases replacing, the unobviously natural act of speaking to people face to face and understanding that physical interaction is infinitely more important than a ‘like’.

It’s not that sharing your moments on social networks is bad or wrong. It’s more the fact that doing so should logically never get in the way of meeting new people or spending time with those you love. It should never take one minute away from anything else you do because it is irrelevant, and unreal in any human sense.

I know people who will go out and then publish 20 photos on Facebook to show you that they have left the house and that they are having fun. I know people whose Facebooks lives are completely different, always better and more interesting, than their real existences. I know people who are obsessed with the attention they get online to the point that we all need to know that they have checked in to a fucking pub or a restaurant, over and over again!

The internet is not evil and neither are social networks. They are merely technology that we have bastardised to work in unhealthy ways. We are changing as a species and see a wider world out there which is more connected and which gives us access to many more people in a day than we would have met in our lifetimes 30 years ago. As I said, this access is not real though and is a parody of friendship that rarely lasts. It’s instant ‘friendship’ gratification multiple times a day and the more you have, the more you want.

I also know people who share funny or interesting things on Twitter and who use social networks when there is a special occasion or to promote their businesses. This makes perfect sense and is a sensible way to exist online. I like to think that I fall into this category of people, just, and that I have stepped back from the thoughts of needing online attention these days. I could not care less if any of you ‘Wordpress like’ this article because that means little. I do, however, appreciate the comments because they are interesting and take the subject-matter further, but if the comments don’t come I will still go back to my real life and enjoy it immeasurably more than my online one.

Am I sounding like an old man? Maybe, but in a time where so many are conflicted about the privacy implications of Facebook vs the inability to voluntarily remove themselves from it, I am wondering how we reached a point where something so utterly worthless become so essential to billions of people?

Categories: Articles

6 replies

  1. Sadly, the way we’re going, in another generation or two, online sharing will be the norm, and those of us who don’t or who aren’t all out there, will be seen as weird luddites. There’s lots of science fiction about people being plugged in 24/7.

    I just read an article about research done on phubbing, a combination of phone and snubbing. You get the idea. And the results are no surprise. It’s detrimental to relationships. But that won’t stop anyone from phubbing. It’s an addiction just like email, although that’s now old hat. How many articles have you seen about how to control email addiction. Now there are similar articles about smartphone addiction. We crave human contact. It’s built into our DNA. We’re a social species. And yet, we also crave attention from outside of our immediate circle to the detriment of that circle. Once again technology can be used for good and bad.

  2. I think many people are longing for real connection on FB, not just fishing for approving likes. I see many people posting authentically about their trials and tribulations (and yes their successes, but not always the glammed up version) and getting support and community. I don’t think it delegitimizes the connection because it’s via text (or even with FB’s algorithms deciding what’s worthy of attention, but that’s much more problematic. Is the mark of authenticity “you connect to far fewer people but you have to hear every damn thing?) And I think, often, it’s not replacing valuable human interaction – I remember the photographic retort to “oh man, on the subway, everyone is heads down in their smartphones!” – just look at a photo of a train commute from the 60s -everyone heads down in newspapers and books! Arguably better- but very arguable, and not about the 1:1 relationships I think you’re talking about.

    Also I think you might have a different view being pro and getting paid for this work. I’ve never put in the work to make sure my content was marketable – I just wanted to entertain my future self and a small audience and was more or less ok with that audience being people I knew IRL. (But maybe I was just a wuss and fear of failure kept me from pushing)

    I need to finish up with a lot of disclaimers; I was a blogger since late 2000, my site rarely caught widespread attention, but a nexus of folks, like 2/3 “IRL” people, used its comments feature and kept in touch. Come to think of it, from 2002-2008 (surprised at how early it started, and how long ago it ended) I had a “Dylan’s Sidebar” feature (later “Sidebar of the People” ) where he and later others would microblog, generally posting tweet size or rather longer. Anyway, as FB and others came online, people commented less and less and I never found a way to prevent the spammers, so I took it down.

    To me it feels a little misleading to bunch the major Social Media networks together, esp twitter with FB. I find FB to mostly be people I know from before (man, who needs to go to a class reunion now that you know whatever you want to about the current life of former colleagues you’d care to?) – like I guess companies have a presence there, but it seems weird and artificial. Twitter, I feel like most people are connecting with people they don’t know? And it has this weird empowering thing, for good or bad, where an individual can get a surprising amount of response from a company because it’s a very public forum. But the entertainment and connection is more likely from the pros, not the people you know. (Tumblr, Instagram… I dunno. I only use Tumblr beyond FB and Twitter, but they seem more about finding the right people who are either creative themselves or reposting great stuff.)

  3. You make a lot of sense here Kirk. Guess I see a lot of people posting glamourised stuff whereas you don’t see that so much. I suspect that I have too many ‘friends’ who are just work colleagues and people I barely know. I need to prune my friends list, but to be fair I rarely go to Facebook these days so would likely be better closing the account.

    • It would be interesting to study if our standards of “glamourized” are around the same. I mean, even with my friend making an ambitious show-offy cake (inspired by The Great British Bake-Off, and referring to some people in it) — the shots don’t seem super-staged or tarted-up. So, there’s still this idea of “the problem is you’re seeing everyone’s sport highlights reel while watching your own bloops and blunders tape”, but either my crowd has lower production values or I’m maybe less sensitive. 😀 Or FB has learned I pay less attention to people who are presenting unauthentically – I can think of other posts from the same person where they go the tougher part of their life as well.

      • The cake is good. What gets me are the people who check in multiple times a day to show everyone what they are doing, which is usually quite dull. People like that😁

        • Yeah, I’m glad “check-in” is less of a thing than it was in the Foursquare days- but it has been replaced by google maps’ et al’s Yelp-ification – “how did you like place ____ you were just at? rate it and talk about your experience to help other users” or whatever the hell they say.

          Thinking about it, I guess that’s one (desperate-sounding) measure to combat one of the main problems of Yelp and even Amazon reviews, which is the bathtub-shaped curve because big fans and people with grudges are the ones most likely to post. In theory if you got a culture of everyone reviewing, especially the “meh, it’s ok” brigade, ratings might be more meaningful – but then you have the problem of “grade inflation” where anything less than 4 or 5 stars is problematic.

          Actually it’s hard to reconcile people who love to check-in – people well beyond my own attention-seeking needs – with people who are much more concerned about privacy with this whole FB ads fiasco. Maybe another bathtub-shaped curve, with me in the lonely middle?

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