Categories: Web/Cloud

Social Society: How Technology Has Re-made us Into Victorian Socialites

The word “social” used to relate to human interactions within a group setting, in person. Now it means commenting, tweeting, scrolling through photos, and sharing everything (not in person but through the internet). We interact with someone’s “wall” more often than we do with them in person.

Social media has had a huge impact on our lives. In the last ten years the way we interact with other humans has changed dramatically but whether this is actually beneficial is still to be decided.

This age of social media has influenced technological developments greatly, especially phones.

I don’t have an iPhone. I don’t even have an android phone. My phone is distinctly “so five years ago”… and it knows it (it regularly shuts off as if in protest). Still, despite my dated phone I remain very aware of the amazing technological advanced that have come to phone tech over the last few years and how it has impacted the lives of my friends. I was in the room when two of them got their new iPhone 4s’s and began speaking to Siri with different levels of success.

Now that one friend has both an iPhone 4s and an iPad 2 her life is intrinsically linked to technology and in her own words she “can’t live without it”. I admit that I do want an iPhone, but I worry that the constant access to Twitter and Facebook and other media that it provides would be unhealthy for my already growing addiction to social media.

I recently heard a talk from Bing director Stefan Weitz, which discussed the future of online search as ‘social and personalized’: friends’ likes will soon show up on search results to influence your clicks. I was struck the other day when I saw an ad for an online film service of some kind. It talked about live tweeting and Facebook conversations and interactive viewing. Whatever happened to the days of watching a film or TV show in silence and discussing it afterward? Why do we need to have constant interplay?

I’m beginning to wonder whether all this technology and “social” integration is actually a good thing for us. Is social really social or is it more just eavesdropping and gossip? Have we turned real life into reality TV? Do I really need to know what all these people on my Facebook timeline are doing/saying/thinking every single day?

Social media has had a huge impact on our lives. In the last ten years the way we interact with other humans has changed dramatically but whether this is actually beneficial is still to be decided.

I can’t remember a time when our friends and acquaintances were invited to have so much say in our daily decisions, or a time when we were constantly displaying our thoughts for all to see.

The last time socialites were this influential was the Victorian era. It’s what Jane Austen writes about with such feisty commentary. The bored upper classes would squabble and discuss each other on a daily basis in the midst of shallow parties and get together. It was invasive of people’s privacy. You might say with celebrity gossip and such that we’ve never really got past that Victorian mentality. But there’s no doubt social media, especially combined with reality TV, has made this worse.

The technology we now use has not in many ways made us into better or more social human beings, instead it has thrown us back into the age of socialite parties, gossip, boredom, and slander.

Sure Facebook has allowed me to keep up to date with photos of my nieces and nephew, and it has let me scan through old classmates profiles to find out who’s married, where people work, etc.

But Social Media has actually reduced the amount of time I’ve spent emailing, and actually talking to and with my friends and family. I am informed about the goings on of many people’s lives but am I involved? Not as much as I should be or used to be.

Sure there are other factors involved like distance and long working hours but really the social aspect of this media is more like spying than it is socialization. I am very excited about all of the new technology and eager to jump on the bandwagon and have my own iPhone and iPad, don’t get me wrong.

Still, I worry that eventually all this watching, commenting from a distance and sharing excessively may in due time have a negative impact on how we live and interact as human beings.

What do you think? Are you worried about the impact of social media on human interactions, or do you think I should just get over it and embrace the future?

About the Author: This is a guest post by K Newey, a writer of scripts, articles, and web content who, despite some qualms, actually does see the benefit of social media and technology for some things, especially to aid in intercultural training and communication through companies like www.global-integration.com.

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