Jul 25, 2007

Social Media Is Only "Social" If You’re Alone

A few weeks back I was preaching about how Social Media sites are quite anti-social if there are other people in the room, and thus mainly appeal to two demographics: teenagers and affluent, workaholic, single 20 and 30somethings.
What both groups have in common is a feeling of isolation based on the fact that friends and loved ones are not accessible on a constant basis- either because they are living in a college dorm or with their parents (teenagers) or because they work 18 hours a day and tend not to live in the same cities as their college friends.
And as if to prove the existence of this latter group, I stumbled upon this post written by a woman in praise of Web 2.0. Entitled “10 Things We Can Learn From Facebook,” I’ll give you the relevant excerpts:
Local is a state of mind. My new best friend, who I met in December, lives in New York; most of our friendship is bites and bytes, but she's my can I borrow a cup of sugar/do I look fat in the dress pal. (In other words, tech powers connections--powerfully.)
We want to be local, not global. Small is beautiful, and a digital backfence like Facebook's status updates or twitter, has irresistible appeal.
Forget Starbucks, the third place is digital. Got 5 minutes? Need a break? That place you like to go is probably right on your screen.

Again, for the groups I mentioned, social media is a wonderful thing. For a teen or 20something for whom social life is paramount, it’s a way to keep the party going all the time. And for someone as isolated as the blogger above (who it turns out is actually a bit older than the main demographic) it’s a way to stay connected. But for the rest of us, it actually has the reverse effect. I mean do you really want someone Twittering at the dinner table? Checking their Facebook mid-conversation?

I thought not.


bender said...

I think you're right about who Social Media appeals to...people through their 30's.

10 years from now, they'll be in their 40's. Think they'll ditch the Facebooks and such (or whatever Twitter 19.0 is hot) by then?

The reality is that these things (social networks, whether online or mobile or whatever) ARE the way we'll communicate with each other. Current examples aren't perfect and won't hit 90% adoption in the next 12 months, but it's ridiculous to think they're just a temporary blip. They're changing the way people engage with each other and interact.

For the better or for the worse...who knows? It's not like TV was real boost to the world's collective IQ or nuclear family stability for the past 60 years, but we all still watch the box at night...okay, maybe we skip the commercials now.

In my view, Social Media gives you the opportunity to be scratch your socialization itch while letting you simultaneously ignore the dumbass sitting at the other end of your couch if you so choose.

And that's a benefit that can be enjoyed by any and all ages...

Toad said...

@Bender: If the "dumbass(es) sitting at the other end of your couch" are your wife and kids, perhaps you'd rethink your proposition.

I'd like to think that when it comes down to throwing a ball with your kid vs Twittering your pals, that your kid will win out.

Your comment shows how tough it is for many 2.0-niks to imagine a world outside their own bubble. But ask any of your friends/co-workers with kids if their socialization patterns have changed since become parents and you'll be surprised at how radical the changes they describe are. So yes, today's unmarried 30something will be giving up Facebook as they get married and procreate.

I agree with you though that social networking isn't a flash in the pan, that it will adapt for different audiences in different formats.

Look at LinkedIn. It serves the over-40, senior exec crowd very well, giving them a business-only social network that preserves the wall between personal and professional life. What's more, it only needs to be attended to a few times a week, if that. I suspect other sites will emerge to serve other constituencies whose social needs are not as pressing as those served by Facebook and MySpace.

fatc said...

You're right again, Toad.
Not that you need it, but here's some more validation for you.


And cheer up, TT. I know its painful to think that someday you and your friends will all acquire spouses and families and mortgages and thus not care nearly as much as you do today about Twittering on My Face Book Space, but you'll get used to it, just like we all do as we age and our priorities change.

Anonymous said...

Here's the complete link (hopefully)


Matt Stooks said...


I don't think you'll see Facebook users leave as they reproduce.

View the platform as a tool to keep in touch with existing friends, rather than a way to plan your social life.

As family life takes over your time, yes, your social life will diminish. Does that mean you lose all interest in your friends' lives?

Ten seconds is all it takes to Twitter or update your Facebook status. While these users won't spend near the time Facebooking as the younger crowd, the services become more valuable as a far easier way to keep in touch than traditional means.

Facebook is about to explode in a huge way because of it's unique ability to tie people together. Users will simply change how they use it as they grow older.

Toad said...

@FATC: Thanks for the link. Interesting article that I've commented on over at BusinessWeek. You realize that I do actually have kids, a wife and a mortgage, right?

@Matt Stooks: At age 26 (I clicked the link) it's hard to imagine a time where my friends weren't paramount. I know I couldn't have. And maybe people will use Facebook for the yearly Christmas card instead of email, but those lapses tend to become a bit awkward.

It's like every time you get a new cell phone or computer and decide to update your phone book. And there are people on there you can barely remember how you know them. Your Facebook page is going to wind up like that, filled with people you haven't talked to in 5 years, whose face you really can't place and you really don't need them to know you just bought a new house and you don't really care about their kid's first birthday.

Not saying Facebook is going to fade away Matt. Just that like many many things, its appeal is less than universal.

fatc said...

Oops. Sorry TT.
That last bit about mortgages etc. was for bender, not you. My bad.