So today's another Blog Off, an event where bloggers of all stripes weigh in on the same topic. This week's topic is "Do social sites like Facebook connect the world or isolate people?" The topic was spawned by a flawed scrap of research that the mainstream media pounced on like vultures on road kill. Never mind that the research in question amounted to a poll conducted by an undergraduate of her peers in a psych class. What mattered was the finding that Facebook is a magnet for narcissists and self-haters equally. Because no one seems to understand statistics or how to construct a logical argument, headlines exploded in August. Within days, the conventional wisdom had jumped to yet another flawed assumption. Namely that Facebook causes narcissism.
From the Telegraph
Facebook provides an ideal setting for narcissists to monitor their appearance and how many ‘friends’ they have, the study said, as it allows them to thrive on ‘shallow’ relationships while avoiding genuine warmth and empathy.From the Toronto Star
Compelled to tell your 500 Facebook chums every time you can’t find your sunglasses? Want the world to know you look like Robert Pattison? Post new Photoshopped pictures every day?
You, my friend, are narcissistic and insecure.
I could go on and list quotes and back links for days but you see my point. The mainstream media seems to be threatened by social media, the new kid on the block, and the results are predictable.
I have my share of problems with Facebook. I think of it as a cul de sac on the World Wide Web. It's the new AOL I tell people all the time. Facebook is a duplicated, smaller version of the web and despite the fact that it connects people from their respective pasts and presents, the only thing it isolates is people from their futures. I'll get to that in a minute but I love having a site where I can catch up with my nieces and nephews, my siblings, old friends from high school and college and the rest. But my past is my past for a reason. It's pleasant to hang out there from time to time but it doesn't help me get to where I want to go. I think that's Facebook's Achilles' heel by the way and it will be what does it in. It's all but impossible to meet new people there.
I don't know about anybody else, but my life has been completely and utterly transformed by social media. I document most of it on Facebook, but none of this transformation starts there. For me it started with Blogger.
Two-and-a-half years ago I was an unknown designer in a second-tier city tucked along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. Thanks to the kick start I got from my Blogger blog, here I sit as some kind of an industry thought leader (I hate that term) with a network of peers, colleagues and friends that spans the globe. My involvement with Blogger, and later Twitter has brought me face to face with a good number of these colleagues and friends. From the first half of 2010 alone here are a few of my personal/ professional connections.
|Kelly Morrisseau writes the blog KitchenSync. She is the first designer/ blogger who ever reached out to me as a new blogger and we've maintained a a strong friendship ever since. Here we are in New York last February.|
|This is the community of design bloggers as it looked last winter. That photo was taken at a cocktail party in New York hosted by Brizo faucets and Manning, Selvage and Lee Public Relations last February.|
|This is Zoe Voight and I hanging out in the press room at a trade show. I'm in the press room as a credentialed journalist because somebody at Veeder + Perman Public Relations loves me and loves my blog.|
|Here's a bunch of design bloggers at a seminar sponsored by @brizo.|
|Here I am giving another talk at another trade show, the Southeast Builder's Conference this time. Masco is paying me to deliver a talk on how much my blog has changed my life. Pinch me.|
Everything that's going on in those photos, all of those personal connections, were made possible through my social media presence. When I hear claims that I'm further isolated I laugh at the absurdity of it.
As my travel schedule starts to take form for 2011 I just shake my head. On the inside I still think of myself as that unknown designer in a second-tier city. Based on the events where I'll be speaking, it's pretty clear that that's no longer the case.
Social media sites make the world a smaller place. They present an opportunity for real, personal connections that transcend geography to a degree and with an immediacy that's never been possible in the whole of human history. Social media generally and Twitter in particular, is where I find my future.
As is the case with anything, thew only thing social site offer is a set of tools. By the time sites like Facebook grow to the size they are (they claim 500 million members worldwide) people are bound to abuse those tools and some people can find themselves more isolated. But just as is the case with anything, it's not automatic. Facebook doesn't cause anything but compromised privacy. People who are thrown to narcissism or isolation are going to be those things with or without social media sites. All of that is a distraction from what's possible though. Better than anything I know, social media takes what's possible and makes it what's probable. As I look forward to the career shifts, adventures and challenges headed my way in the next few months I can't help but say that I owe all of it to Blogger, Twitter, YouTube, Posterous and yes, even Facebook. Me isolated? Don't make me laugh.
As part of a Blog Off, you can go to the official site and see the links to all of participating bloggers' posts. As the day goes on, I'll start listing them here as well.