05
Apr
12

Philosophical criticisms of social media

I want to write a nice piece about why social media and the culture of socialization we have created is shallow, hypocritical and dangerous. I want to find some good arguments, and not arguments that try to draw a false distinction between today’s media and the media of the past. Some day, I’ll write a detailed piece, but for now, I’ll summarize my thinking so far. What are the ways in which social media is genuinely changing the ways we interact with other people?

1. Constant observation. I think social media encourages narcissism. Social media and encourages and validates actions by views, and by seeing and being seen, something that might show itself in various trends including the rise of narcissism and this example. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/04/why-makeup-companies-love-social-media/255466/

this one too: http://www.theatlanticwire.com/entertainment/2012/04/girls-writer-responds-critique-girls-horrible-joke/51314/

2. Dehumanization. Psychological evidence shows that people dehumanize others more the wider their social network (see my links section for the paper on this).

3. Changing the dynamics of socialization. interacting with others through the filter or screen of social media damages our ability to hear and see the other person, which is partly how the human brain evolved to process conversation. Conversation is the art of repartee and quick response. Also, some psychologists and linguists think that the part o the brain responsible for talking was designed to take advantage of the structure of a back and forth conversation in real time. Even video chat can’t simulate this because proximity is relevant to this calculus.  When we talk by chat, we THINK about what we’re going to say in a way we don’t get to in the midst of a conversation. We’re robbed of authenticity in some sense because we are always acting as our best reconstruction of ourselves, not who we are intuitively (there are positives to this too).

4. Excessive control. social media gives us more and more control over our social networks. We can call text and email always to the person who MOST enters our mind at a specific instant. We can organize our friends and search them. This is bad is because friendship and sociality should be more like the radio. You should have some control over the type of person you talk with and interact with, but a lot should be left up to chance. That is how we grow and mature.

5. Here is an example of how social media makes us weaker and shrinks out moral selves: rather than confess to wrongdoing to the person we wronged or to close friends, we look for a misplaced “sociality” and the world at large. We confess online to other anonymous people, and this mirrors the fact that we have fewer confidants. We report having on average two close friends rather than 3.

6. Breadth versus depth. Written words take longer to form. So we talk to a lot more people each day, and via email, we can make many requests each day all over our “networks” but we have to compact and contract the things we say. We have less deep conversation and more of them. (is this why the number of confidants has fallen from 3 to 2)

song lyrics, narcissism, not increasing social isolation,
this great piece is going to have to be part of anything written on this topic: http://www.stanfordlawreview.org/online/privacy-paradox/dead-past (the focus here is on privacy concerns as a criticism of new media)
The other side
This woman has a really developed take on the social media and is happy to defend it’s role in our lives. It’s great reading. Here is her piece in the Atlantic in which she argues against Sherry Turkle, saying that Facebook is not making us more lonely and that it’s increasing our connection with real people too at the same time that it boosts our online relationships.
Fine. This probably answers my 6th claim on point. However, I don’t think the social media is making us more lonely  anyway (and even if one did think that, how could studies about how many people someone talks to in a day tell us anything about loneliness, which I would think is a mode of relating to others), for me, it’s rather that social media is making us more narcissistic, more concerned with seeing and being seen and less concerned with being authentic. One example is 3 above. If we have more social media conversations, we’re more text based, which means we’re not using automatic processing. Instead, we’re more planned, more poised. In other words, we are who we want to pose to be and not who we are.
Here is the same researcher, Zeynep, talking about these things. http://technosociology.org/?p=1035
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