Social media sites are the new antisocial

In my more awkward days, I went to social events and whipped out a copy of Dale Carnegie’s How to Make Friends and Influence People right in the middle of a prime social opportunity. To see what Dale Carnegie would do in his old-fashioned days.

“Why are you doing that when you could be socializing?” a friend criticized once and I never whipped it out again.

After starting to use twitter (a micro-blogging site that allows people to write small messages via phone, web and a number of applications), I am suddenly in the same situation where I am missing a prime social opportunity. Now that I am less awkward, more worldly (almost), it struck me how antisocial this all was.

Recently, I started following a friend that twittered constantly. It was interesting at first. But a twitter that unnerved me was when she basically asked, Why do I have so many people following me, but only a few respond?

In the end, I un-followed her. I just couldn’t do lock myself in a facade of shameless self-promotion. What’s more how could I…when sometimes I preferred that face-to-face interaction. What happened to those personal phone calls? Personal emails? Personal ims? What happened to I want to visit you. Not just everyone near you, but you.

But here is twitter. Something one might do right at an event. I saw people at SXSW twittering even as they stood in front of me. Or they would twitter with someone across the room. Although SXSW is one of the few conferences that encourages the use of a phone during a talk, it drove me crazy that this whole…social medium…an asynchronous communication medium…takes places in a situation with possible synchronous communication. It’s one thing to im someone across the room, but it’s another to twitter with someone across the room.

Social media sites are at their core…antisocial. Like reading, it’s an activity that we participate on our own. Our computer or the phone. We each type our individual message, check the message inbox, update our profile. We look at photos that pertain to us, tagged with our name. It’s all shared, but is it? We update things and then we wait for a response. When we get a response, we write back…and wait again. We laugh at people’s messages on walls…but then that’s it. We are almost broadcasting to an empty room, hoping someone…someone was hidden in the shadows to respond.

When I designed an UI for televisions, we often ran into the challenge of designing an account for families. A TV is inherently a social activity. And the question was how to design for multiple people using the television. How do you recommend? How do you know? What if we wanted a combined interest for a couple? And in the end, it was just easier to assume an individual was using the TV.

I say…stop twittering the person across the room and talk to me.

Because I now leave my dog-eared copy of How to Make Friends and Influence Copy in my bookshelf.

1 thought on “Social media sites are the new antisocial

  1. Pingback: Followup: Twitter Thoughts |

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