How many friends do you have on Facebook? How many people are following you on Twitter? Are you on Google+? Heard of Pinterest? What’s the link to your WordPress blog? Not on WordPress, then what about Blogspot? Or LiveJournal? Tumblr. MySpace. Quora. LinkedIn. Orkut. MeetUp. MyYearBook. Badoo. Not to mention, all these social media platforms have also migrated to the mobile domain. BBM me. Add me on Whatsapp. Want to share your location? How about Foursquare? Or Google Latitude? Or Yahoo Fire Eagle? Or Loopt? The list is endless. Hey, let’s not forget the simple text message either. And all these services are available worldwide at the expense of a simple internet connection or an internet enabled mobile phone.
The wide claim is that social networking and social media is making the world a smaller place. But, in truth, can it be possible that social media may be isolating us from the essential daily human touch.
A few weeks back, a few friends and I had decided to meet up for some coffee and conversation. We had plenty of coffee with each other and a lot of conversation, but not with each other. For the duration of our meeting, we were all busy on various social media networks our application on our Blackberrys, iPhones and Android smartphones. The result: a group of friends all sitting around on the same table buried in everything except the purpose of actually catching up. There was a point where two of us who were there were actually BBMing each other. The irony cannot be underscored any further.
The biggest complaint that parents have is that their child is spending too much time on the internet or his/her smartphone rather than with them or even outside. Recent studies of children between the ages of 10 to 18 have showed the average child would much rather spend time on Facebook than shoot some hoops or play some ball. Majority of the parent’s surveyed complain that their teenage son or daughter uses his phone for social networking purposes during a meal with the family.
A study by Amy Porterfield, a US based social media examiner indicate that as of the year 2011, 24% of the time spent online per day is attributed towards social media. That is 1 in every 5 minutes of the day spent on social media on average per user. About 55% of adults have at least one or more social networking profiles. As of 2010, Facebook had a unique audience of 125.2 million visitors. And as of today, Twitter has a unique audience of 19.1 million visitors. This was a massive growth of more than 1,520% in the two years prior.
A study in the New York Times claims that – “The social media brand that people spend the most time with, the report finds, is Facebook, by an enormous margin. During May 2011, when the report was compiled, 53.5 billion minutes were spent on facebook.com from computers at home and work (that was up 6 percent from 50.6 billion minutes in May 2010). Behind Facebook during May was Blogger, at 723.8 million minutes, Tumblr, at 623.5 million minutes, Twitter, at 565.2 million minutes, and LinkedIn, at 325.7 million minutes.”
A social networking analysis site socialnetworkingprocon.com claims that even countries like Israel have citizens spending an average of 11 hours per month on social networking sites. Twitter was so important to the Iranian protests after the Iranian presidential election in June 2009 that the US State Department asked Twitter to delay a scheduled network upgrade that would have taken the website offline at a busy time of day in Iran. Twitter complied and rescheduled the downtime to 1:30 am Tehran time.
Each person tends to check his idle phone for BBM/Whatsapp/text messages about every 2 minutes. The transition to mobile technology has no doubt been one of the brilliant innovations of the last century, but human use has taken it a step too far.
Social networking sites entice people to spend more time online and less time interacting face-to-face. The sites offer many time wasting activities that supplant more productive activities. Teens spend an average of nine hours per week on social networking sites. The hours per day of face-to-face socializing have declined as the use of social media has increased. People who use these sites frequently are prone to social isolation. Parents spend less time with their children and couples spend less time together even when they live in the same house, because they are using the Internet instead of interacting with each other.
The purpose of this blog post is not to condemn social media or the innovation that went behind its success. The irony lies in the fact that the blog post also comes under a form of social media and outreach. Social media has made the world a smaller place. It has enabled us to connect with distant friends, family and loved ones. Social media marketing is a great form of business expansion and development. Social media also enables us to know what is happening in the world right now.
However, it is our use of social media which has taken it too far. In this digital age, we tend to forget that human touch and interaction is vital to our development. Failing this, we will definitely isolate ourselves from the rest of the world even though we are in contact with it via social media. The emotional closeness that comes with a personal connection will surely disappear behind the desire to view the latest Instagram photo uploaded by your favorite rapper or the current location of that movie star you find so hot. Real contact is an essential, no matter how much we progress as a civilization. A great fear is that the next generation will fail to understand the importance of this contact and will emotionally shut themselves from the world. Put that cell phone aside during face-to-face interactions. Refrain from touching it during a 15 minute dinner with loved ones. Put your son or daughter to bed instead of spending that time on your star athlete’s blog. Connect with the world in a real way too. Be human.