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Social Media: the friendship killer app

August 30, 2009
Anti-Social Media?
Image by Intersection Consulting via Flickr

@econwriter5 has shared a great article today on Twitter: WSJ‘s ‘How Facebook Can Ruin Your Friendships’. This article has been on my mind all day. Media Panics have been a natural part of Media and Culture evolution: Waltz will curropt the youth, Radio will degregade our values, TV will ruin families, Internet will ruin your friendships. Reading the first paragraph of the article, the writer reveales how facebook ruined her friendships – it showed her the day-to-day aspects of her friends:

” Notice to my friends: I love you all dearly. But I don’t give a hoot that you are “having a busy Monday,” your child “took 30 minutes to brush his teeth,” your dog “just ate an ant trap” or you want to “save the piglets.” And I really, really don’t care which Addams Family member you most resemble. (I could have told you the answer before you took the quiz on Facebook.)…..This brings us to our first dilemma: Amidst all this heightened chatter, we’re not saying much that’s interesting, folks. Rather, we’re breaking a cardinal rule of companionship: Thou Shalt Not Bore Thy Friends.

Well, let me share a little secret with you. ready? ok. here goes:

If you don’t want to socialize and network – offline and online – don’t do  social media. A little moment of honesty here. if your friends tweets and status updates about their small, little day to day experiences don’t interest you – maybe you are not really friends? maybe they as people don’t interest you? If you are after JUST pearls of wisdom, great philosophic ideas and invigorating in depth conversation about the grand events and notions of the world, well then maybe what your looking for is either a library or a course?

Now this is not to say that social media should be just about your cheese sandwich – that IS boring, if that’s what it is all about, all the time. The question is – is that all you tweet about, and is there a chance the ‘cheese sandwich’ or ‘watching the red sox’ could actually reveal aspect of your friend’s personality which you were not aware of, and could deepen your relationship?

The first and biggest misconception of this article is the totality of the social media experience. Just like you can’t live with all your friends without going crazy,  you can’t listen to ALL your friends’ day to day experiences without getting crazy and/or bored.  I am not saying social media is absent of the above great notions and ideas, nor that it is only full of  “I am taking my dog for a walk” – it is both. Social Media is about both. And the beautiful thing is that you can filter, dip in and out, choose – and still keep in touch with everyone. Relationship with human beings are never simple, becasue human beings are not simple. Offline and Online.

The second misconception, is that the ‘hours’ spent on social media sites are instead of doing something else:

“I’m tired of loved ones—you know who you are—who claim they are too busy to pick up the phone, or even write a decent email, yet spend hours on social-media sites, uploading photos of their children or parties, forwarding inane quizzes, posting quirky, sometimes nonsensical one-liners or tweeting their latest whereabouts. (“Anyone know a good restaurant in Berlin?”)”

Last time I checked, uploading pics or updating a status are an activity of a minute or two, max. not hours.  But the fascinating paragraph is hidden somewhere towards the end of the article:

Alex Gilbert, 27, who works for a nonprofit in Houston that teaches creative writing to kids, is still puzzling over an old friend—”a particularly masculine-type dude”—who plays in a heavy-metal band and heads a motorcycle club yet posts videos on Facebook of “uber cute” kittens. “It’s not fodder for your real-life conversation,” Mr. Gilbert says. “We’re not going to get together and talk about how cute kittens are.”

HMMM. so now that we discovered what are friends are REALLY about, we don’t like them anymore. And it’s all facebook’s fault.

Or is it that there wasn’t really a match to begin with and you are just not REALLY know or want to know your friends? One theory is that one needs to check the amount of info they absorb a day – again, listening all day to all of your friends’ tweets and status updates IS GUARANTEED to draw a line between you two, just like living with all your friends all day, every day, would. Another theory calls for a self examination: I have a few friends that say they don’t friend online those who don’t interest them in real life. And that’s the exact description of social media – interest is at the heart of everything. If your friends’ lives dont interest you, maybe it’s not Facebook that is responsible  – maybe it’s just a reflection of your relationship.

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