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It’s a Social Media Merry-go-round.

December 8, 2010

Recently, I asked, “Does Technology Connect Us or Separate Us?”  Since then, I’ve read numerous blog entries and articles exploring similar observations and viewpoints including Dave Pell’s “The iPhone I Can’t Keep  in my Pants” and Newspaper to New Media‘s “Anti-Social Media ”  Interestingly enough, most of those writers disclose (upfront) their compulsive social media behavior, but still feel the need to question how technology is changing the way people communicate, interact and experience life. 

The ongoing discussion appeared as the cover story in last week’s issue of Time Out New York, asking the question, “Is Social Media Bad for NYC?”  This article, by Sharon Steel, suggests that the obsessive Foursquare check-ins, photo blogging and YouTube filming is changing “the way we consume our city.” 

In an earlier blog entry concerning the manner in which people choose to communicate with each other, I proposed that, “Yes, we live on an island, but has technology transformed us into islands unto ourselves?”  In a similar sentiment, Time Out New York, suggests that social media is transforming the way New Yorkers experience their city. 

“We’re shifting the focus away from the city’s culture and arts scene, and onto ourselves. We’ve become the stars of our own digital shows, in which keeping track of our hyperbolic NYC lives has become the hyperbole itself.”

 

How many check-ins needed (as of Time Out's press time) to be Foursquare mayor of...

Time Out New York’s article explains what it sees as drawbacks to the use of social media in the city.   A follow-up article, “New Yorkers on Social Media,” illustrates these drawbacks with some pretty surprising, but entertaining examples.  The following three struck the loudest chord.

  • The “mayor”of the restaurant Eataly’s reply to a request for comment:

“Thanks for reaching out.  Due to my busy schedule, I’m unable to answer your questions directly.  Please send your requests to my press officeeatalymayor.po@gmail.com. Thank you!” – Mayor Schwartz.

* A Foursquare “mayor” is a person who checks into a place more than anyone else in a 60 day period.

  • Observing six friends on a Friday night at The Living Room, it clocked 5 minutes of consecutive silence as the friends used their phones.
  • Owner of TraifBikeGesheft and Facebook enthusiast revealed that he used to swim every day, but because he doesn’t have access to Facebook, he now runs so he can always be connected. 

The article left me wondering: whose fault is it?  If it’s out of control or heading down the wrong path, who alters the course?  Us?  The innovators?  The businesses?

It’s a social media circle.

It’s a never-ending circle because as individuals, we thrive on innovation and participation, which fuels the pervasiveness of social media.  Simultaneously, businesses feed off social media’s numerous profit-making possibilities.  Once a profitable business is established in social media, there’s no turning back.  This, in turn, drives competitors to jump aboard the social media train for fear of being left at the station. This circles back to the users who are ready to pounce on the latest technology trends. 

Who is responsible, if anyone?  What is the future for social media and where do we fit in?

First, we need to accept that technology and social media are here to stay.  When working through the negative repercussions of social media, we need to remember the countless positive opportunities brought to us by advancements in technology.

For example:   Meetup.com uses technology as a tool to get people off the internet and into the real-world.  Facebook provides a place for us to connect and stay connected with friends and family. Yelp or other recommendation sites allow us to experience parts of the city we might otherwise not know existed.

The key is balance.  As technology advances and integrates itself into our everyday lives, we need to maintain a healthy balance between our physical and virtual interactions.

The controller is you.  Businesses, programmers or entrepreneurs are not responsible for how much of your time is spent in the virtual world.  As much as we’d like to pass the buck, we all know we’re responsible for our own actions.

So, my fellow check-in obsessed, smartphone-toting New Yorkers, might I suggest we toil with balance this holiday season.  Capture the moment, but spend more time enjoying it.  Be thankful for what’s important:  family, friends and the gift of spending time together.  (Not trying to be sappy – but it’s the truth!)  Happy Holidays!

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