Thursday, May 12, 2011

Is Social Media making us "Alone Together"?



This is a guest post by Benny Xian, the former COO and co-founder of Beyondcore. BeyondCore is an advanced analytics software company based on the disruptive innovative principles identified and analyzed by Professor Clayton Christensen.

Is Social Media making us “Alone Together”

“When you have technology that is always on, and always on you, there are some things that become possible: like continually texting, never really having to meet face to face, being in able to always be in communication but not connect”
Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together

Is social media making us less social? Turkle from MIT is sparking an interesting debate on social technology and whether it is making us more or less human. Without a doubt, social media network is forever changing the way we interact. Ten years ago, did we ever imagine having strangers calling into our home and asking to be connected as if we already knew each other? Most of us would have instantly hung up the phone. What about checking to see if your neighbors are in a relationship or not? This is totally absurd back then, but it is becoming a social norm now. With Facebook and Twitter, we seem to be more connected than ever. But, are we becoming less social because of it? I wonder when cellphone was first invented, did we worry about spending too much time over the phone and not enough in person? I bet we did.

Facebook is about connecting online
What is so interesting about the social media movement is how it is changing social behavior and social expectation. With this shift in social norm, people are becoming more open similar to how cell phone made people more accessible. We are currently experiencing one of the greatest social experiments of all time with social technology like Facebook testing how far we are willing to go. We can share everything almost real time with over 500 millions users online. While some people might argue that we are becoming isolated as a result, we are forgetting Facebook was never designed to replace face to face interactions just like cellphone could never replace meetings. Its primary mission is to connect people online. Without Facebook, many people wouldn’t have connected otherwise because of time and distance. Thanks to Facebook for making the impossible humanly possible.

Yatown is about connecting neighbors
While we are more connected than ever before to everyone around the world, what is urgently missing is the connection to the people immediately around us. I am excited to hear about Yatown, your neighborhood social network, and how it is solving the problem with connecting neighbors. Instead of connecting with virtual people far away, now you can connect with real people around you that you can engage with physically. With urbanization, we might have isolated ourselves from our neighbors because the social norm has moved away from sharing and openness. Try an experiment by sending a simple hello card to your neighbors and see how many would reciprocate today. With an online local social network, it provides a channel for connecting and interacting without the awkwardness. All of us want to see strong communities of trusted neighbors immediately relevant to our daily lives. And, Yatown provides a great solution.

I think Turkle at MIT should be excited as well seeing how local social network can do social good by connecting seemingly isolated people. With great imaginative use of social technology, we are not “alone together” after all.

Without social technology, we would be alone together in a neighborhood. Say hello to your neighbors at Yatown!

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