It's that time of year again

Spring is in the air, quite literally. My car is covered in a layer of greenish, sticky pollen. Finals are once again approaching, and so I will be temporarily withdrawing from the social media world. However, I thought I'd leave you with some of my current thoughts on social media.
Last night's episode of South Park dealt with the time consuming and often annoying entity which is facebook. Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman have become obsessed with Facebook, but Stan wants no part in it.

Unfortunately his friends have already made Stan a Facebook profile and he is soon drawn into the insane world of social media, quite literally. You can watch the episode in its entirety here.
The part of this episode which struck me the hardest was the character of Kip Drordy, a sweet but awkward student who has 0 facebook friends. Kyle feels sorry for Kip and adds him as a friend. Kip is  ecstatic to have a new "friend." 
Unfortunately Kyle is eventually forced to "defriend" Kip because he is "bad friend stock" and is turning Kyle into something of an outcast himself.
I know it's ridiculous, but I actually felt sorry for Kip. I was a huge nerd in elementary and middle school. I doubt I would have 0 facebook friends, but I certainly wouldn't have had more than a handful. Middle school is an especially hard time for most kids, there is a constant LordoftheFlieseque struggle to keep from being on the bottom of the social ladder. 

Now imagine being in middle school and being on Facebook. Even if you don't really want to be on Facebook you would know that absence would be just as conspicuous as your presence. So Facebook could easily become the perfect measuring tool for the popular kids and bullies to determine just who is  "unpopular" or "nerdy." Maybe the cut off is having less than 50 friends, maybe it's 100, it doesn't matter. Furthermore, photos, events, groups, and videos allow the elites of the middle school world to quickly broadcast their inclusion and self-created importance to their social inferiors. 

Social media is an exciting AND frightening new frontier in interpersonal interaction. The membership  and influence of flasgship websites like Facebook and Twitter is growing exponentially. 

The latest estimate is that 116,010,760 Americans have a Facebook profile. Via Mashable.

That's over 1/3 of the American population, not excluding small children and the elderly. 
Everyone is getting on Facebook.

Social media is quickly becoming the primary way many people: communicate with friends and family;  network and find jobs; learn about new music, t.v. programs, music and movies; express their political and religious beliefs; and even keep up with current events. 

Isn't it time that people with foresight and knowledge [behavioral psychologists, sociologists, philosophers, and ministers (and yes, even lawyers)] begin to not only observe and study social media interaction, but explain it to us? To provide their fellow citizens, their clients, their friends and fellow believers with their insight and advice? Isn't it time for our culture to consider guidelines for the ethical,healthy, and responsible use of social media?

Why? Why not just let everyone figure it out for themselves? 
We are already seeing the results of that approach, and they aren't pretty:

An angry and immature mother's MySpace hoax leads to a girl's suicide. Story.
Students expelled for drunken photos posted online.

Employees fired for online indiscretions. 

How far does it have to go before we as a society realize that we are interacting in ways that people never have before? Before we realize that our lives are now more open, and consequently more vulnerable, than they ever were before?

1 comment:

life on wheels said...

I do have one argument for life online. When we grew up, it was still a time when having the most expensive shoes or being the best at dodgeball could make or break a social life. Now, if you're the best poet, musician, acrobat, magician, etc. there is a forum for you to display your talents and connect with like-minded outcasts. Hopefully this will wholesale counteract the elevated power of bullies online.