The lie of social networks

I have recently been experimenting with limiting the social networks on my phone. I haven’t actually been canceling accounts but…

I have recently been experimenting with limiting the social networks on my phone. I haven’t actually been canceling accounts but I have been trying to limit the distractions on my phone. The funny thing is as a byproduct I have started just feeling lighter. I haven’t had so much heaviness in my life. There are many reasons for this, but one reason has especially stuck out to me.

Social networks masquerade as a windows into physical reality while in actuality they are creating an alternate reality that is at best a caricature of physical reality. Here’s what I mean by this. Social networks aggregate the collective high points of 300-500 peoples lives. In fact, sites like facebook actively filter things it deems uninteresting. This collection of high points does not equal reality in physical experience. There is no seeing your neighbor struggle to get their kids into the car, or noticing just how menotonous the cashiers job at the grocery store is.

Instead, what you find in social media are the two extremes of the average human experience. You see photos of people’s mountains top experiences, you see posts about the lowest points in the news and people’s lives. What is missing is the middle of the road. The average. The mundane. This is pa-rt of the reason social media is so addictive and makes you feel so unfulfilled at the same type. It’s almost like reading a tabloid. There’s just enough truth to keep you reading but it really doesn’t tell you the whole story.

On top of this misrepresentation of reality the sheer volume of connections that we attempt to maintain on social media is often unrealistic.

The average person can maintain 100-150 connections at any given time. We are currently experiencing the first time in human history where it is possible to easily find ourselves with a scale of connections that are much greater than our cognitive limit.

Now I’m not saying that increasing the scale of our connections is inherently bad. What I am saying is that we have some horrible implementations of using technology to foster connections and relationships today.  Look at the main networks that people interact with online. You have Facebook, an advertising company. Twitter, an advertising company. Instagram, owned by Facebook. Google, an advertising company. Linkedin, an advertising/paid subscription company. Here’s the crux of the problem. None of these companies (Linkedin is a possible exception) are in the business of connecting people. They are in the business of making their services as addictive as possible so they can increase your screen time to deliver more advertising and collect more data about you in order to deliver even more advertising.

The fact of the matter is, that none of these companies measure their success by how happy, well adjusted and socially enabled their users are. This is why I was getting that heavy feeling having so many social connections buzzing away on my phone. The networks I was using were not designed to make me feel good in a deep sense. They were, quite honestly, designed to be addictive.

So what can we as creatures craving connection do? I think we need to start hacking the services that are currently accepted and available. Just like adblockers are beginning to help content producers think about alternate ways of funding content production. Drastically changing the way we interact with our social circles online and offline can help change the nature of the social web.

(Photo Credit: Denis Dervisevic – https://www.flickr.com/photos/denisdervisevic/4745520501/)

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November 9, 2015 @ 12:45 am Trackback URL

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