Are social networks really helping social connections?

We live in an era where not having a facebook page or a twitter account or any other type of social network account can make your life harder than ever. The flow of information has never been higher, more diverse or more accessible to almost everyone. While this is a positive thing, I also think that there are some downsides to it that can prove to be quite worrying.

I only own a facebook page, although my friend keeps telling me to make a twitter account as well. It is very tempting, I will admit, but when I see how much of an important part of my life facebook has become, I feel like having a twitter account would only take away more of my time. But I will probably cave… as it has happened with facebook. At the beginnig, as embarassing as it may be,  I used facebook only to play different games. It wasn’t until after some time that I actually realised all the benefits that this social network could bring. Not only could I see what my friends were up to, but I could also receive a constant flow of news from different newspapers, televisions or celebrities. Quite quickly I became more and more attached to it and ever since I came to the UK, it has proved to be my main tool of communication with friends from back home but also with the friends that I made here.

Because it is my personal facebook page, I try to friend people that I actually know. In terms of other facebook pages, I find really helpful to “like” certain pages that have useful information and provide my news feed with important and relevant information. I can read newspapers from Romania, from the UK, from France or from Spain, they are all a click away.

The dangers in terms of personal facebook pages are, in my opinion, first of all the fact that it tends to make us sell ourselves. We only upload the best pictures so we can get more “likes” and it all becomes a sort of a popularity contest. I’ve recently read a study which said that facebook can make us depressed, because people usually upload pictures depicting them being cheerful. Of course people like to smile for the camera, but when you see pictures of your friends smiling it leads you to believe that they are happier than you are and consequently that they have a better life than you do. Which is absolutely misleading and even dangerous for people that are already struggling. On the contrary, people that spent less time on the virtual social network were less likely to believe that they are unhappy.

On the other hand, social networking has several advantages, especially marketing-wise. It is time and money consuming, and it allows basically anyone to promote himself. Because me and one of my friend are setting up a website with film news, we are surely going to use facebook a lot as a promotion tool and most probably I will also get a twitter account by the time the website is ready to help promoting it. I think this will allow us to make it more popular and ultimately turning it into a brand.

The dangers of centralised social networks is that it gives too much power to only a handful people who have access to several of your personal details, pereferences, making you again only a number in a statistic, just a consumer profile,  as it always happens when the interests of the few lead the interests of the many.

Creating the content

Hi AncaT :slight_smile:

I was reminded of a post that Cataspanglish wrote  about how Pete Ashton has been making a living as it features his relationship to, and use of social media in his life and work. I’m still thinking about it for various reasons, the first of which is that his interaction seems to be as much about trying to understand and interact with the world around him as it is about self-promotion. Also there are some thoughts in there about network diversity and serendipity I think are worth checking out. Am very curious to hear what you think about it:

Hi Nadia :slight_smile:

Thank you for the post. This is quite amazing and it shows yet again what a huge difference the Internet has made in people’s lives especially in the last 10 years. The Internet sort of allows you to become whoever you want to be, and of course provided you have something to say, you can almost always find an audience. I think this is a two-edged sword, because even though it encourages people to explore different layers of the virtual world, and have different experiences, we should not forget that it is still a virtual world and as Pete said things in the real world are much more difficult to put together. The virtual world gives you the wings to believe you can do anything, but it can also mislead you sometimes. I think Pete was really lucky, also because as he admitted he was born in a country that allowed him to discover and then follow his passion. What do you think?

Maybe ask him…

Well, I am not sure that the perception is not part of the solution. Jorge started a discussion on the impact of percieving others as peers. I posted my own thoughts and experiences on the matter there…Maybe contribute to the dicussion and we can get more people in there? I’m interested in the topic

We are all in it, but…

Yeah, I use Facebook too. And Twitter. And Linkedin. And YouTube, Slideshare, Google+, Scribd…

As you said, they are well made and offer useful services. But I am on my guard, because, as Clay Shirky is fond of saying, “If you are not paying for the service, you are the product.” Totally right: these guys earn their money selling information about us.

Which is why I am hoping we can all migrate onto Diaspora* at some point (or something like it).

Some thoughts

I work in a high school, my work is basically to stay in a opened computer room.

There’s a software called Lanschool installed on every computer, so teachers and myself can watch what the students are doing from one place. I took the liberty to watch quite often but very quickly what they were doing on the web. It was mostly flash games, facebook and facebook games.

What they seemed to do on facebook was looking at each other photos and commenting it. They could be two or three in front of a screen commenting it, or alone, scrolling it (sometimes desperately). And they are quite addicted to it.

It happened a few times I watch quickly while working and saw pictures that could be dangerous for them.

Another thing that surprised me is that I only saw once youngsters fighting and had to separate them. They were not kidding, got blood on me in the process, they seemed really mad at each other. When things got quiet back, I asked to one why the fight ? “I just said “hello” to his girlfriend on facebook…”

You can’t get the whole story behind something like that, but it reminded me a story about a guy kiling his ex-wife be cause she changed her profile to “in a relationship”.

Some young people especially don’t seem to realise how their virtual acts can have consequences.

I could share more about this, but I wanted to react on your conclusion :

The dangers of centralised social networks is that it gives too much power to only a handful people who have access to several of your personal details, pereferences, making you again only a number in a statistic, just a consumer profile,  as it always happens when the interests of the few lead the interests of the many.

That’s something we really need to think about. The technologies are improving and emerging at a pace that goes far beyond our possible understandings, especially with internet, because it touches to social, psychological and many other aspects. There will be consequences at every level.

Centralised social networks like google or facebook have access to enormous quantities of social and psychological data material. At the moment, it’s obvious they use it to get money thanks to advertisments, they are also trying to centralise a lot of services to make it easier for the user. I use google apps daily, mainly because I’m lazy and I like to work fast.

But I’m quite scared about what they can do with all the data they collect. They are gaining a power that we can’t yet imagine. No one knows what powers these few people can already hold in their hands but I’d prefer to see these powers in the hands of scientists from all horizons, common people. Not in the hand of a few. I would for sure feel a lot safer about it.

I have a real love/hate relationship with Facebook. I even deleted my account, but sadly got dragged back in due to a lot of people’s unwillingness to email! I think it is making people only too aware of things that are immediate. The amount of times I have stayed at home, clicking refresh, and I know others do it too, rather than go outside and actually see these people is massively depressing. Also when you don’t know everyone well on your “friends” list you can overshare so much information.

I’ve written a blog on Facebook recently that might interest you -

Only if we want …

Your precius post tell me that all depends how we use this new instruments of human relations and what we say to them about us.

I think, these instruments are not dangerous in themselves, their primary objective is to connect the peoples in different way. Much depends on us and the relationships that we create.

I see what you mean but I was wondering about how the personal information that we give through these social networks is being used by those who actually have the interest and the power to keep our consumerist society thriving. Although their objective is to connect people it’s this other side of things that worries me.

No real choice

The way you use Facebook, it looks like you really don’t have many alternatives. Twitter is (in my opinion) better than Facebook at keeping you informed, but it is harder to get the “hanging out with people you really know” effect.

I also keep a profile on Diaspora*, an open source social network conceived by the Mozilla Foundation as a noncommercial alternative to Facebook. Other Edgeryders, like Cataspanglish and elf Pavlik are also there, but it it feels very empty compared to Facebook. For now it is mostly the hardcore geeks and a few curious people like myself, but given time I think it could become an important meeting place, free from the commercial sector.

Hey!Yeah, these new online social platforms could be an alternative but as you said it’s quite difficult to replace that feeling of ‘togetherness’ given by facebook. I’ve only recently found out about Diaspora but it might become really successful if more people give it a shot.

Did we get it right?

Hi Anca, how are things with you, are you back in Sussex? Hopefully you had a great summer… and thanks again for your great help at the conference :slight_smile:

I came across your post here when I was reading the latest research paper for the transition handbook, and it seems to be partly inspired by it :slight_smile: The paper, as we discussed at the conference (don’t know if you remember that plenary?), should produce policy recommendations based on experiences of young people in the Edgeryders community. So it synthesizes all posts in the Living Together campaign, and tries to describe a new model based on Edgeryders lifestyles, and ways to create and enjoy relationships. And guess what, network building is a great instrument not only to engage with others, but access common resources, like information, work opportunities, shared spaces… The argument is that eventually being in networks that foster sharing practices can lead to more cohesive communities. This is the gist, but come check it out, I’d be curious to see what you think and if something needs to be changed or added… point is: we’re building the handbook as a community, so any constructive feedback will be incorporated and acknowledged as contribution.  Hugs from Cluj :slight_smile: