Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

The genuinely *social* media app

One idea that's been making the rounds this month is the point that social media is anti-social. The linked article is talking mainly about the problem of people who are partly online while they're meeting in real life (and is inspired by the Social Media Breakfast I was at earlier this month), but I think there's a larger issue here.

I'll put a stake in the ground here, and I'll be interested to see if folks agree or disagree: LJ, Facebook and systems like them are in a very real sense *distancing*. The problem is subtle, and not obvious -- after all, we *know* so much about our friends due to these systems that they obviously bring us closer together, right? But the thing is, they take up a lot of our time in doing so, and they train us to interact in this mode. And it isn't at all clear to me that that's good for us, at least when it's carried too far.

This arises from my observation that my friends seem, by and large, to be less social and more depressed than they used to be. Not in a huge dramatic way, but on average the numbers seem a bit down. We don't get together in real life quite as much as we used to, and we don't have as much to talk about when we do. There are a bunch of reasons for this, but I have a sneaking suspicion that LJ is part of the problem. It takes up a lot of our time, and it *feels* like we're scratching the social itch with it. And we're getting to talk about everything on it. So we don't have as much time to get together, and a lot of our topic space is already exhausted.

And the thing is, I don't think that actually matches human wiring. We're social creatures, and I suspect that talking online isn't quite "social" in the way we're designed for. I get the distinct impression that we need a fair amount of face-to-face contact with friends to be happy, and we're not meeting that need.

Being a good geek, my reaction is of course to try and come up with a technical solution to this -- possibly silly and inappropriate, but one possible tack. So I've just added the "go get a soda" story to CommYou. It's a long ways down the list, and I don't know exactly what it means yet, but the initial idea is that, if you're sitting there clicking refresh, the best thing the system can do for you is to encourage you to get the hell away from the computer and get together with people in real life.

I suspect that the problem is going to need a bunch of exploring in order to get it right, but everything tells me that there's a necessary evolution looming here. Too much of social media is currently designed to chain you to the damned machine, but I don't think that's actually good for you. So responsible apps are going to need to recognize that they're part of the problem, and figure out how to be solutions instead...
Tags: commyou, technology

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