February 23, 2009

Do Social Sites Make Us Nicer?

Do social network sites make us better people?

Pete Cashmore from mashable.com argues that they might.

Cashmore writes that the “immediacy and accessibility of Twitter messages that make private conversations public; tools that open up the very real possibility that every action you take, whether in a public space or in seemingly private emails and text messages, is being logged and possibly shared with thousands of people… How does this change the way we act? Might it actually make us…nicer to one another?”

The author then cites several recent events where bad behavior was broadcast on social sites and called out, resulting in web-wide discussions on behavior.

Is this the dawn of a new social conscience?


Barry said...

A "new social conscience"? Be careful what you hope for. Sounds more Victorian to me - shame a transgressor without any chance to defend themselves. This is the power that concerns me. It strikes me as mob "justice". Simply express your frustrations or anger and the entire community turns on you instantly. A tribal conscience is probably a more accurate description in some cases.

Phillip Kwik said...

Interesting. You must have never lived in the pre-technology neighborhood to which you so fondly refer.

Shame a transgressor? Mob justice? Tribal conscience? These are not unique to the virtual world. Live in a small community where everyone knows everyone's name... and business. I have -- and do.

The virtual world -- like art -- imitates life. To demonize technology is to set up a straw man that simply doesn't exist.

Barry said...

You must not have read the link you posted. For something that "doesn't exist" it had a nice example of this very thing. And while it is true that virtual life reflects art to a certain degree, people flame each other with impunity online because they know they will never have to face that person. If you have a neighbor who is a jerk, you ignore him. But if he's an online jerk, he's toasted by flamers in sometimes very ugly ways. There is nothing "demonizing" about pointing out the truth of this undeniable fact. A fact, by definition, is not a fallacy, therefore not a straw man. I speak honestly about technology, not ideologically. I think it serves the larger discussion to do so. Victorian-era shame delivered through technological means is something I find terribly amusing and completely unsurprising. Ecclesiastes was right, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

Maria said...

I think it makes me more cautious. Though I always try to be polite, I find myself constantly over-analyzing my email or Facebook communications because people cannot always tell what I mean by what I write or how I write it. It happened just last night when I wrote something on FB that a friend mistook for sarcasm. That's why I sometimes use emoticons. :)