How the Seemingly Impersonal Social Network Humanizes Us All
After the over - hyped Facebook IPO last Friday, there's been a lot of talk about how it was overpriced, how in five years the stock will boom, and how in 10 years Facebook won't even exist. The truth is, you can't compare this to the dot com era or some other historical time period; and no one can know with any certainty what the future holds for "social." One thing is sure: for the time being it's here to stay But amidst the chaos, naysayers come out of the woodwork proclaiming Facebook and other social networks are destroying the framework of human relations. Heck, there was even a rally of 40,000 orthodox Jews that met in the Mets Stadium this past weekend protesting the internet! (You can and should read all about it on TheVerge.com). So is social killing relationships? I don't think so.
The argument has been made that we spend so much time on social networks, and buried in our mobile devices (sometimes even when we're physically with a real human) that we're only developing shallow, meaningless relationships. For me, I believe if social networks didn't exist, I would have far less interaction with close friends and acquaintances. Regardless of social, our lives are increasingly hectic; work, responsibilities, kids, not to mention the many close friends that have moved far away.
Social networks have allowed me to stay connected with friends from high school and college, as well as "meet" new and interesting people through Twitter. I can honestly say I've had meaningful interactions with people like @Stephen_P_Brown, a conductor in Tampa whom I've never met in person. Yet we've had a few deep interactions and shared thoughts on classical music using less than 140 characters. There is also @chadmumm, who is a video producer for Vox Media in New York. I've asked his opinion on purchasing cameras and equipment and he's been extremely helpful.
Those relationships with high school and college friends, people may claim they're shallow and unimportant. But honestly, what would we talk about in person that's different to what we're talking about on Facebook? TV shows, movies, religion, books, food, vacations; that's what we'd be talking about face to face! Social media allows me to retain those connections, rather than lose all communication and the ability to share.
I also believe social media allows us to see those in high positions or authority as fellow humans. Some leadership may fear or be against this, but the people looking up to you will trust you more when they know you're human too. I follow pastors of 5000 person churches who post vacation photos at the beach. I see Christian music artists tweeting about their children or even what they had for dinner. Is this stuff meaningless? Again, I believe this opens a line of trust and can develop loyalty when they know whom their following likes Chipotle too. It's a picture of a burrito, so what? Well if you identify with that, it develops an instant connection. That connection may even be with someone you've never met, and a small level of trust begins.
What the future holds for social media is uncertain at best. But regardless of what others say, I'm glad it's here and hope it sticks around for a while.