Is social media really making us antisocial?

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KyleBy Kyle Packer, Head of Online Engagement, The Hot Spots Movement

Is ‘anti-social’ media really driving a wedge between people? I hear more murmurings every day about the growing divide between the Klout-score wielding, hive-mind collective, and that other group who prefers to actually make eye-contact on the train rather than stare into a hypnotic, glowing screen to find out about the world around them. But a recent blog by ‘future-business thinker’ Brian Solis provides some excellent food for thought. He insists that “anti-social” tech-heads are really nothing new, and neither are their critics. You could in fact take the behaviour we’re seeing today as a kind of social interaction in itself. And one that we have seen after almost every revolution in media and communications technology.


In its day, the advent of the printing press brought about great dislocation in the business landscape. Thanks to Johannes Gutenberg’s technological revolution across Europe, people found themselves – much to the annoyance of many business owners – suddenly able to share large amounts of information quickly and in huge numbers. The resulting discussion and development of new ideas was  threatening to some and became the new unspoken mandate of employees of all ranks and creeds!


I’m often told that human interaction and the art of conversation are hollow shells of their former selves. Didn’t people once derive meaning from the randomness of life? A world in which talking to strangers and unfamiliar business partners face-to-face was a character-building necessity? Most people now, myself included, seem to bumble down the street, struggling not to bump into things as they keep their eyes cautiously glued to the screen for guidance.

Even in the workplace, people excuse themselves from conversations or interrupt one task to tend to another means of outside communication! As Solis points out in his blog, workers are “losing the powers of analog observation and perspective in favor of digital engagement”. But in today’s working world, in which we are interrupted on average once every 3 minutes, are those powers obsolete?

It’s a difficult conundrum. Are companies getting value out of digital? Or is the value that we get simply best in the mandatory absence of discovering alternative value or utility? In social media for example, there must be a more meaningful measure of success than quantitative attention. A like, retweet, comment, tag, or view perhaps shouldn’t mean as much as they appear to. As Solis says, “The value we take away from this digital lifestyle must only be surpassed by what we invest in it. That’s for each of us to define. And define it we must”.

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