Questioning the Impact of Social Media


On Tuesday we spoke a lot about Clay Shirky, partially because most people choose to read his book Here Comes Everybody and review it. Seeing that so many people choose his book is really a compliment to how good it is. One of my favorite concepts in his book ask you to consider how changing communication changes society. Not only does this quote mean that due to new technology people will do things differently, it actually changes what we anticipate and expect as a society.

Not long ago it wasn’t rare to loose touch with high school friends and only see them at reunions. Tools like Facebook and LinkedIn bring these people back into our lives and in some cases, make us wonder if someone they haven’t talked to in 12 years really needs to know everything about their life. In a Geek’s post How Social Media Has Changed My Life the author addresses the importance social media plays in his life. Social media “has strengthened existing friendships, it has allowed me to find new friendships and gotten a taste of life in different parts of the country.” After the gravity of inclusion swallows you, I feel people realize social media is a great benefit. In class we spoke about how certain technologies are expected for digital natives…I wonder how many “when I was a kid” stories I will be telling to astonished children in 10 years.

It seems that society is moving towards a view of ‘knowing a little about everyone,’ rather than just ‘knowing a lot about a few’ close people. Families separated by thousands of miles are able to watch their grandchildren, nieces and nephews grow up using YouTube, Twitter, Flickr and many more. How will people acknowledge friends as ‘good’ or ‘acquaintance’ now that we have running threads of daily activities? Will it become expected to have a social profile and what new privacy issues will arise from it? Will there still be some people out there in 10, 20 or 30 years who refuse to have any online presence? If knowledge becomes instantaneous how will that alter what our children are expected to learn and retain? These are all questions that we will have to answer in the days, months and years to come.

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2 thoughts on “Questioning the Impact of Social Media

  1. I, too, am a big fan of Clay Shirky and his latest book. FWIW, I recently came across an interesting post by Kevin Marks in which he emphasizes the importance of the human in the [social media] loop, an aspect he believes was not as well represented in Clay’s book as it might have been:

    http://epeus.blogspot.com/2008/07/here-comes-everybody-tummlers-geishas.html

    Your observation about digital natives and “when I was a kid” stories reminds me of Alan Kay’s claim that “technology is anything invented after you were born” … though I am rather more inclined to believe a slight variation: technology is anything invented after you graduated high school.

  2. Thanks for your comment! I haven’t read his latest book yet but will try. I am intrigued by Marks comment about needing a conversational catalyst, and wonder if we really need this? So much passive conversation is happening all around us.

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