Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Plea for SOCIAL Media

Facebook gets a lot of press. I don't have space to link stories now, but trust that if I linked to every related story from this past week alone, this and several subsequent posts would contain nothing but a long list of links.

Just in the last few days, news surfaced that Facebook censored ads advocating the California marijuana legalization measure, it is impossible to "block" Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook news feeds (good thing he isn't one of my ex-girlfriends...), and that apparently Facebook "places" (their answer to Foursquare and Yelp) is pretty pointless. These issues, alongside continual challenges like the Aaron Sorkin biopic about (The Social Network) premiering in October, not to mention Facebook's perennial "issues" with "privacy," seem to consume the technology news cycle.

News about Facebook seems to penetrate deeply. Sorkin has obviously chosen an excellent subject for his film, as the news coverage seems to be driving buzz for the movie (some might say that a biopic about someone younger than 30 might be either case, I think I read something a few weeks ago that Justin Bieber--who looks 12, but might actually be the ripe old age of 16--is shopping around his own the topic, but shocking nonetheless).

The media (and therefore anyone who reads or watches anything) has become obsessed with Zuckerberg. The Zucker-mania and most Facebook buzz in general prevents us from confronting the most important issues surrounding Facebook and social networks in general.

As everybody gets bent out of shape over privacy, minor inconsistencies, somewhat controversial (albeit ultimately unimportant) decisions, and Zuckerberg allegedly acting like a jerk, we are distracted from the broader issues.

I asked a web guru friend of mine (who requested respectfully to remain anonymous) to answer this question: How does social media (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare--which I think is pretty cool, Wikipedia and even Blogs) make our lives more social?

He responded, "Facebook has 500 million users, enough said. You, as a singular user, are legitimately connected with every single person on that network. The internet has revolutionized the way we talk to one another and how we gather information. " (As long as you don't prescribe to the Prince school of thought)

Good answer you might say.....though I wouldn't. As pretty and optimistic as his answer is, I was searching for something deeper, something to vindicate the fact that old forms of social expression are falling by the wayside.

As sad as I am that the ancient art of person to person conversation (where you can peer into someone's soul, hear the tremble of their voice, see a fist clenched in anger, or feel the happiness of smiling eyes) has fallen out of popular favor, the incomprehensible size and scope of social media and the internet in general is a pretty solid consolation prize.

Nevertheless, I, as an internet user and influencer, strive to be social in all walks of life. I hope others do as well. So, for that reason, comment on my well as on the columns of my fellow bloggers. Point us to articles and opinions that we might not have heard before (hopefully your own), and drive conversation. Don't just make Facebook a friend contest, don't tweet that you are going to the market. There is great power in social media, please don't waste it by being a passive watcher, that's what television is for.

Also, put down that smartphone every once in a while and talk to your neighbor, you'd be surprised at some of the crazy things he's done--especially if you live next to any of the venerable authors of this particular publication!