Nothing “social” about social media

With Facebook going public we have been inundated with reports about how social media (Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, Linked In, etc.) are revolutionizing how we communicate. Two recent NPR programs featured guests making the following claims. (I can’t remember the programs. I was in the car.)

1. “Social media are revolutionizing how we communicate”  — Really?

Cut the Crap

They are not. We have communicated via text since the invention of writing, through music since the playing of musical instruments, and through images since the invention of photography.  Those were revolutionary inventions. Facebook and Twitter allow us to share in these formats WITHOUT being social.

2.  “Social media (Facebook) are changing teenage life”  — Really?

A Stanford professor found that teenagers are lonely, even though they spend a lot of time “presenting themselves” on Facebook — posting pictures and stories, constantly changing their order and their “presentation.”

Cut the Crap

No change here. Teens have always been self-absorbed and lonely.  By the way, teens have always bullied, too. (I am not excusing it.) We now call it cyber-bullying, but it is what teens have always done, just with another tool.

3.  “Social media are ubiquitous; but, we are not more social”  — Really?

Cut the Crap

Calling something “social” does not make it so. Technology writers had to find an appealing name for a new technology. They called it “social media” because nobody would use it, if they called it “narcissistic media.” There is nothing “social” about social media. Facebook, Twitter, and the others make life better in some ways; but “social” life is not one of them.


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