Social media is seriously screwing with modern society. It’s making us lazy, depressed and, ironically, antisocial. And it’s even damaging the IQs of our children. Don’t believe me? Join the queue. But although (admittedly) I may be overstating the case a tad in that opening salvo, I do firmly believe that the social web is having a profound effect on society, and not always for the better.
A couple of weeks back I took part in #BigTweetOff, the Twitter debating platform, arguing the case that social media is having a negative impact on society. That particular encounter ended in a creditable draw after the votes were in and, if anything, it further convinced me that my thinking isn’t quite so radical and worthy of being carted off to the lunatic asylum by men in white coats for.
It’s no secret that social media is the big driver of the web nowadays. Americans now spend as much time online as they do in front of the TV, with a third of that time spent on social networks alone. In South Korea, the most connected nation on Earth, around one in ten people is addicted to the web, and psychologists have stated that there is a strong link between heavy use of the web (and therefore social media) and depression. In the same country, 62% of 3-5 year olds regularly use the internet (source: The Virtual Revolution, BBC). The current generation of digital natives will spend an astounding 10,000 hours online before they become adults.
With all in this in mind, ignoring or denying the impact that social technology is having on our behaviour both as individuals and as civilisations is nonsensical. And I am genuinely wary of the society that my baby daughter will grow up in. I’ve witnessed myself the likes of Twitter and Foursquare invading precious moments; dinner parties, birthdays, weddings, childbirth even! People heavily into social media who use it on their mobiles never seem to be ‘present’, as Gemma Went explained so lucidly on this blog a few weeks back. Social media is so transient that I fear that the next generation (or the generation beyond that) may be less able to form meaningful social bonds due to the abbreviated nature of status updates. There’s little depth to most (not all) relationships formed through social networks.
I also fear that language may suffer as we get more and more used to txt speak and fitting as much info as we can into as smaller number of characters as we can. This blog post is only around 500 words, but probably seems insanely long to you – if you haven’t ditched it already. If you’re still with me, you’re probably either speed reading or skimming, but it’s unlikely that you’re really taking in what I’m talking about or thinking it through. So are we losing the ability to ‘consider’? And more importantly, are we sacrificing individual IQ for ‘collective intelligence’? Don’t get me wrong, collective intelligence is extremely powerful. But where is the next Newton, Einstein or Hawking coming from? Does the social web kill genius?
What do you think? Should we be wary of the unseen impact that social media is having on society? Please leave you thoughts below…
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