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.
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.
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.