Monday, November 30, 2009

Anti-Social Networking - Part 2

In the previous time I wrote about this topic, the main issue was people using social networks and how little they really know about their "friends". This time I want to argue something a bit more extreme: people are knowingly becoming more distant when choosing such network as a way of communication, rather than becoming closer.

I'll explain.

In my last birthday I was a little insulted by friends not calling to wish me a happy birthday. It's not that such people are not my friends anymore, it's just that they offloaded some of their knowledge about their friends to some on-line database, so it's a little bit easier on their heads. The same thing happened when we stopped memorizing phone numbers of our dearest, simply because it is stored on a SIM card, and it's easier that way. The problem here was that only people which are members at the same database (e.g facebook) could one keep information about. So people forget birthday dates.

I thought "oh, OK, I don't have a facebook account, so people forget about me". Just this week I considered opening an account, and the strangest thing happened: a friend who's active on facebook had a birthday and told me how insulted he was that most of his friends didn't bother calling him and wish him a happy birthday. It's not that they forget, It's just that they preferred leaving him a short message on facebook: "happy birthday". Being easier than sending an SMS message, leaving a message on facebook seems to be even more insulting.

So instead of enriching this friend's social life, he feels facebook has degraded those. His main dilemma right after seeing all those messages was whether to reply to each and every one, or not. And what to do with those written on the wall?

Is this the case for everybody on social networks? I don't know.
Is there a reason people leave such messages and don't do real social activity (such as calling)? I believe that yes, there is. It is faster, cheaper and doesn't require any human interaction.

I'm still pessimistic thing will get any better before they'll get worse.


  1. What do you think - would the people that just left the short "happy birthday" messages do something else had Facebook not been around, or would they just do nothing at all? And more interesting - which would you prefer?

    I am for one very bad at remembering birthdays, so Facebook is a welcome help here - and I see nothing inherently wrong in offloading knowledge to "some database". But if I don't call, I do make an effort to write a personal message (and not on the public wall). I'm not sure Facebook encourages a less personal behavior, but simply makes it more visible. Continuing Guy's comment on your previous post on this, I think this "digital management" of friends allows to maintain "friendship" on a less intensive level with more people with whom you as not as often in touch.

  2. Yevgeny and Guy, you're both correct.
    I didn't say anything against offloading birthday dates and phone numbers from our memory, to somewhere more reliable (?).

    You do both define a new kind of relationship, which is less than friendship and more than nothing. This is interesting and deserve it's own post. one day...

    Anyway, take into consideration that you, unlike other maybe, are very aware to the things you do and the implications of technology on our lives.