Dr. Sheepthrow Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Social Media

A while ago, I heard Someone Influential1 arguing that the problem with social networks like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc, is that they are inherently interpersonal spaces designed and built by asocial people.

Who else happily spends that much time between-chair-and-keyboard rather than out, with, um, people?

As the argument goes, our actual social relationships are like good wine: built over time by an amalgamation of interchanges, contexts, signaling, emotions, subtly, nuance, and complexity.

All of these characteristics are lacking in online social network destinations. It’s almost if the current batch of social network sites has all the nuance and complexity of a junior high home room class:

“Are you my friend?’

“Do you like me?”

“Do you like me like me?”

The argument continues by declaring the risk with model: younger generations could see these social networks as models for actual social relationships – rather than the mediated relationship they are – and we have a generation of sociopaths who require every aspect of every relationship to be explicitly declared to simply feel loved and wanted.

I’m sympathetic to the argument and I’d be all up for grabbing the pitchforks and torches except….

Have you watched a program (drama, comedy, talk, ‘reality’, ‘news’, anything really) on television or watched a movie lately?

Pick anything.

Guilty of the exact same crime.

And so much worse.

At least online – the people have a chance at changing the system to more accurately describe their relationships. They have a chance to use online interactions as a compliment and extension of offline interactions.

In broadcast media – there’s no chance. All the dysfunctional, psychotic, asocial behavior is frozen in. Ready for replaying over and over again. Never changing, learning, or improving.

While it once made me cringe to imagine a generation growing up on throwing sheep at each other in Facebook, it now terrifies me to imagine a generation of people modeling their social relationships off Power Rangers, daytime dramas, ’24’, Oprah, American Idol, and just about anything sold on a DVD.

Bring on the friend requests and thown sheep.

1. I think it was Cory Doctorow, Bruce Sterling, Clay Shirky, or someone similar. I can’t find a link right now, does this sound familiar to you?