Friday, January 6, 2012

The Social Network Hype

I’m going to thumb my nose at the Media and psychologists who have touted for the last handful of years that social networking makes monsters out of people.  That tweeting, texting, blogging, and posting on Facebook will create a nation of social misfits whose only identity and personal interaction is through a computer – that we will become dark, twisted and lonely creatures. 

Nah.

I just don’t believe all the psychological Armageddon hype.   Yeah – i’ve seen the articles on people who have posted their wacked out diaries of their sad lives on the Internet and have taken out their frustration on the masses – the acts of George Sodini comes to mind.  But i don’t believe that social networks made people like Sodini do their crazy acts of violence.  I am not convinced social networking turns ordinary people into loyal members of the Lonely Hearts Club or candidates for schizophrenia.  Crazy people were crazy before the Internet – social networking is a result not a cause.   

Yet the Media – ever vigilant to promote drama – sells the social networking hype as if it came from outer space, as if it wasn’t created by us – like a plague that popped out of a black hole from some other universe.  But social networking was born from our desire to stay connected with one another by taking advantage of current technology.  It’s a bit like the argument on guns – “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”  People may argue that if the guns – or social networking – weren’t available we wouldn’t have a problem.  That’s an irresponsible argument.  One – we will not get rid of the myriad ways people have found to kill one another, two – we will not banish technology.  Does having technology make it easier for people to act out their own brand of craziness?  Most likely.  Just like office doughnuts make it easier to gain weight.  But the decision, act, and responsibility lie firmly on the individuals’ shoulders.

Recently i had a wonderful experience with social networking.  It was my birthday and i was overwhelmed with “happy birthdays,” well wishes, and funny jokes.  It was heart-warming, endearing, and put a smile on my lips.  Now i’m not so na├»ve to think everyone remembered my birthday; i’m completely aware that this social network is programmed to notify people of upcoming friends’ birthdays.  But no one made them respond except that dearly, most cherished of human traits, the need and desire to be social.  To reach out and connect.  It cost them not one penny to be kind.  Yet it gave me a happiness that has no price. 

So i stand by the thought that social networks, and other various networking platforms, are good for us – provided what we give to others is good.  The seeds of positive or negative action lie within us and we will reap what we sow – the choice has always been and always will be ours.