Fri
Jan 30 2009 11:53am

Social Life 2.0

From George Orwell’s “big brother” to Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, science fiction continues to raise alarms about an all-seeing government eye peeping on our private social exchanges. But George O. might find it ironic how willingly we simplify the task. These days with social networks, we’re doing surveillance by crowdsource.

Call it the homophilic urge, we humans feel a yin to communicate, and online social networks are spreading like sunlight. We share photos, conversations, political agendas, the names of all our friends—we love it.

Remember the South Park episode, “The Day the Internet Stood Still”? If all our social network sites collapsed at once, Americans might very likely experience a whole new brand of Great Depression.

Still, who can forget Total Information Awareness, the Bush brainchild that spied on our social network sites? Digital McCarthyism. Could we have made it any easier?

But wait, there’s more. Not only do we freely bare our hearts to the NSA. Social networks also display our inmost desires to direct marketers.

Social marketing, once the province of do-good nonprofits, has now become a mainstream advertising channel, and savvy merchandisers are already mapping our social longings to the latest sparkly new gadgets, available for only $199.95. How convenient!

Even Pope Benedict has weighed in on social networking—on YouTube no less.

Not being a Catholic, I don’t often hear papal bulls, but the Pontiff’s recent homily on the World Day of Communication caught my interest. He acknowledged, “Many benefits flow from this new culture of communication.” But “if the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may in fact function to isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for healthy human development.”

Reflection, yes indeed. Note, the Pope disabled the ratings feature on his new YouTube channel. He doesn’t have his own Facebook account, either, but fans created one for him. How often does he check it, I wonder? And who’s mapping his click-throughs?

7 comments
Jason Ramboz
1. jramboz
“if the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may in fact function to isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for healthy human development.”


Has the Pope been reading Eastern Standard Tribe, I wonder?
trixiebell
4. trixiebell
"shear" doesn't exist.
the word you're looking for is "sheer".
proof-reading, sweetheart. it's a trip.
Torie Atkinson
5. Torie
@ 2

Nicely said.

@ 4

I regret to inform you that "shear" is in fact a word that exists.

And if you insist on being snarky...

Capitalization: an orthographical wonder.
trixiebell
6. chrisboylan
You never have to worry about the NSA or the pope
stalking you through the net.

Your boss, date or mother is your real worry.


@4

shear as in shear your hair, wool.

The correct word in this case is sheer - as in undiluted.

It's always unwise to lip off on a blog post.

You never know who is watching.
trixiebell
7. artdork
This is a great post. And it's already led to an online squabble, hooray!

@designguybrown: You explain my view of social networking so well.

But @M.M. Buckner: You give me pause.
trixiebell
8. mhc
Privacy will be the next really valuable commodity. When there isn't any. If I were 20, I'd be figuring out how to sell this in the future!

If you think private information about you won't be subject to attempts by power-grabby people to control you, you must never read the news.

And frankly, if I were interviewing somebody for a job these days, I'd sure go looking for dirt online. Or checking out a new boyfriend...

This post addresses a larger issue too: most creative work requires blocks of time where you really focus like a laser on the work. When I'm writing, I cannot listen to music with words--other peoples' words get in the way of mine. How could you ever muster the deep concentration to do a really excellent painting if your social life is twittering at you in the background? Or tease out non-obvious implications when your experimental data goes in a completely different direction than you thought it would?

Plus all of us will encounter times in our lives when we need to really THINK about something--not give it 2 seconds of a time-slice. Are you going to be up unplugging and doing that?

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