What is our human fascination with these social networking sites? According to a Pew Research Center poll, 22% of Americans use social networking sites such as these. They break down the stats by saying that:
67% of users are age18-29,
21% of users are 30-39, and
6% of users are 40+
And yes, I will admit right up front that I am a card carrying member of the 21 % club. But why?
Is it some sort of primal instinct that calls to our sense of self expression? Is it because we are social creatures, much like apes? Would apes Twitter if they had the intelligence and means to do so?
Do they have their own form of Facebooking?
What about other animals? Is this guy Twittering?
I suppose this could be an early form of human Twittering:
Ug’s Status: “Out shooting with my homies “
Clearly mankind has some sort of innate need to communicate their activities to others. Is it our way of trying to leave a legacy? Find new friends? Find old friends? Meet up with people that share similar interests?
What about the subject matter that people post on these sites? I think that a false sense of anonymity exists when posting your inner most thoughts onto a screen, while sitting in a low lit room in the corner of your house somewhere. I have seen people post comments, ideas, and questions that I don’t believe they would have ever said out loud in a public place such as work, school, or even a family gathering. But yet somehow they have the courage to do it online for an even greater audience to see.
It’s like when people pick their nose while driving. Somehow they think that their car makes them invisible enough to the world that they feel they can do anything they want, when in reality everyone can still see them quite clearly. Being in your car, like being behind a computer screen, has a tendency to provide a false sense of shelter for people willing to do or say things that they may not normally do in a regular social environment.
What about people who post comments that are meant to call someone out on their behavior, but are just vague enough to keep the rest of the world wondering about who their target is? It can be used as a weapon to scream your feelings from the rooftops about another person, while leaving just enough anonymity to keep some people wondering and others paranoid.The problem with this is that they are really not revealing anything about themselves because nobody, or at least very few, understand what is trying to be communicated – they only understand that there is pissedoffedness happening. No REAL self-disclosure is occurring. But what is interesting about this is that it often prompts friends to come to the authors aid with sincere offers of support and understanding to their situation. Maybe that’s what they are looking for. Maybe they are trying to discover who those “close” friends really are.
And what about those who are opposed to using these sites? Do they choose not to participate out of a fear of technology? Finding new or old friends? Keeping their privacy? Where are those peoples instinctive need for self expression and social communal gathering?
I think a lot of those people side with the idea that “no one needs to know or cares about what I’m doing anyway”.
People are interested in what everybody else is doing. Perhaps it serves as a form of validation for our own life’s activities to know that others are doing and feeling the same things as we are, thereby making our life “OK” and normal. And despite the seemingly insignificance of it, there IS something interesting in knowing that Tommy Taylor is “sitting by the pool” or that Frances Franowitz is “wrestling with her kids to get them ready for school”.
These things bring us feelings of empathy, sympathy, understanding, jealousy and a myriad of other things that spark something in us. Sometimes that spark ends in feeling the need to comment on someone’s status.
One of my favorite things to do on these sites is to post comments, questions, or ideas about things and sit back to see what kind of response it will spark from people. I can then take measure of what will and will not create that spark, based on the number of comments I receive. I have found that people like to respond to posts that involve:
- Asking peoples opinions on religion, life, or current events
- Saying something negative about someone else
- Announcing some sort of accomplishment
- Writing something that is out of character for you to write
- ANYTHING that involves drinking
- Complaining about children
- Sports scores
Some things that have a tendency to NOT evoke a great deal of commentary are:
- Famous quotes
- Song lyrics
- Highly controversial topics
- Mundane life details, I.E. “Going to sleep” or “Driving on the freeway”
- Links to videos, articles, or blogs
Then there are those who sign up but never post anything.
I call them “lurkers”, but really they are simply playing out their human voyeuristic desires to watch other people’s activities without revealing their own. Kind of like going to the airport to “people watch”. Only instead of watching how people dress and act, they can view much more intimate details about how their friends lives play out. They are most likely introverted by nature, but not always.
Author Joseph Devito wrote that “Competent people engage in self-disclosure more than less competent people” and that “competent people have a greater self-confidence and more positive things to reveal…which make them more willing to risk possible negative reactions”.
That’s a pretty bold statement Mr. Devito.
I’m sure there are a lot of introverted people out there who don’t like being called “incompetent” just because they choose not to reveal their lives to the world as much as others. But I digress…
I wonder if those who post their status’s frequently or people like myself who blog their lives to the world possess some sort of repressed, uber-sense of arrogance? Why do we think that the world needs to know or cares about our lives, our thoughts, our ideas, and our actions? Did we have these things suppressed in us as children? Did our daddy’s not listen to us enough then, so we feel a need to express ourselves more now?
What if people like me stopped wanting to express our ideas? Would we have actors or entertainers or authors? Or would we be living in a world filled with reclusive hermit people?
The whole thing is just fascinating to me.
I wonder how many comments I will get on this one????
My bet? 4
One from my friend Scott. One from me responding to Scott. And two more from others who took the time to read this, and as a result, have something inside of them sparked enough to take the time to share their opinion on the matter.
Because another thing I have discovered is that people don’t like to take the time to read long, drawn out blogs. Especially ones that throw in numbers and statistics and that lack a great deal of humor and words like “fuck” and “douchebag”.