On Smart Phones and Anti-Social Networking

The phone was invented as a way for geographically distanced people to communicate. Social networking exploded in its popularity over the last several years as a way to connect with people you knew, as well as many others you didn’t. What is happening now, however, is not so simple and straightforward.

‘Social’ Networks

Spend time on any general purpose social network today, and you’re bound to discover not a simple apathy, but a healthy disdain & contempt for other ‘social’ networks. There are communities & groups on each, who share & rejoice in the ridiculing of other networks. It would not be a problem if the ridicule & the disdain were targeted only at the individual companies behind these networks, the issue is that it is being targeted towards users.

People are now forming opinions about each other depending on whether they’re primarily using Facebook or Google Plus or Twitter for their social networking and whether they’re on a network or not. Are you checking-in on Foursquare? Are you sharing pictures of our meeting on Instagram? The scenario of a date or prospective couples meeting only to discover one of them isn’t on Twitter and hence having a negative influence isn’t an imaginary future, it’s a reality today.

Is this what it means to be social? When we judge people, and this is becoming more & more common & widespread, we are being the exact opposite.

‘Smart’ Phones

Instead of the phone simply being used to communicate, phone ecosystems have become organized religion. There are evangelists (fanatics) who not only vigorously defend their platform of choice, but wage war on those who choose another. When the vitriol reaches the level of death threats, one wonders who is being ‘smart’ in this whole affair. Using a smartphone doesn’t make one smart, it makes the company’s marketing smart.

Look at how stats are being published on whether iPhone or Android users are more likely to have sex on the first date. If you think these are just blogs eyeing page views, think again. There are companies behind these stats, out there because there exists a market for them. It is real.

When one meets a person in real life today, one of the Frequently Asked First Questions is about which smartphone you use. Several judgements & conclusions follow, though they may not be expressed explicitly. If you reside on different continents of the ecosystem, a real distance is created.

The continents of these different ecosystems belong to different companies and are drifting further and further apart. These tectonic shifts are getting worse. Remember what a phone was invented for? Now, these ‘smart’ phones are creating islands of communities hostile to each other. Instead of communicating, they’re distancing many people.


Facebook is a 800 million strong social network. Yet, as a public company, it has opted for the “controlled company exemption”‘, retaining 57% voting control to a single individual. Google has compromised on its flagship successful product, to promote its own rival social network. Twitter has decided to accede to governments, opting for a country-specific censorship policy, with Google following in its toes, with Blogger. The ‘Universal’ in URL is lost forever.

The question is, are you being really social? Are you really smart? If you were you would agree that both the Internet and humanism in general are suffering, thanks to a few companies.

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  • Verity

    It’s an interesting point but I didn’t realise the point of being social is to like everyone. I thought being social was finding ‘your’ gang.  

    We use everything in life to create the boundaries of who we are and what we stand for, and as such, we use these to distinguish the things we aren’t and things we disagree with. We do it in the way we dress, talk, work, drive, socialise, eat. 

    I don’t think social networks are any different. After all, they’re just another way for us to communicate, not a different world with a different set of rules. And I do think that the way you use different social networks says something about you. Therefore, people will interpret what that is as that’s what humans do. We interpret messages from each other every second of every day and they dictate how we respond in return.

    Also, social networks make it easier for the people who used to find it harder to find their gang because while we might not like everyone we come across (and that is life, we don’t, and we couldn’t like some people so actively if we liked everyone equally because we are, thankfully, all different) we come across a lot more people.

  • I’ve actually been pondering how the ubiquity of social media + data with mobile context has turned “social” into something seemingly unsocial.  It’s cool that I can open an app and pull up information about locations aggregated from thousands of other’s updates, rating and pictures, but their just data at this point, there’s nothing social about it. Then add to this the shifts in the Web from open to proprietary platforms. and all of a sudden social media is starting to indeed look anti-social. 

  • We are definitely tuned on this !! Check this out w3crunch.com

  • I don’t know about you, but when I meet someone in ‘real life’ I could care less what type of phone they use or which social networks they frequent. Forming character judgements based on this type of criteria is shallow —but you’re right, it does unfortunately happen.

  • Verity, I concur with the gist of your comment. I have never implied being social is to like everyone. The boundaries you describe make perfect sense as long as we are civil about them. I fear, increasingly, that that is no longer the case. Civility and humane behavior is being replaced with vitriol and ridicule, which is a wholly different matter altogether.

  • Couldn’t have said it better 🙂

  • Well first, off, nice to see a post after a long time.  Always fascinating to read your thoughts.  You are spot on with your observation with regard to fanaticism with respect to the device as well as the social network.  Sadly, I don’t think this is going to get any better.  Please write more often 🙂

  •  Thanks, Nithin. Appreciate your comments and feedback – will try 🙂

  • I have actually lost an online friend because I said even though I am an Android user, I am only one out of necessity. T-mobile US doesn’t support the iPhone, and I simply can’t afford ATT or Verizon.

    Said person called me ignorant and blind, and I shouldn’t be talking about Android at all if I don’t even like the platform. 

    At first I was angry that something so dumb could ruin a friendship, but then I realized if someone was that shallow over their dedication to a smartphone that will lose relevancy in a month, then I don’t need to be talking to them anyways.

  • Holden, thanks for sharing this personal story. Sad, isn’t it? But I see you’ve become wiser for it 🙂