4 Long-Term Sociological Concerns About Social Media
Even as the war for the next great personal device is being waged, there are a few questions that no one in the industry is even listening to. How these personal devices are going to change the personal space and the behavioral organization of the society are big questions that are being totally ignored.
Facebook has become more than just a habit for people; it has replaced the morning tea for most people in the age bracket 15 to 40. People have also been ready to pay for using FB (if the famous pay-for-FB scam is considered)! And (very politely) all that FB does is provide people who are already connected in the physical world a virtual platform to express their views. But, the speed at which social networks like Facebook have grown has been alarming for social activity watchers like me.
My concerns are really simple.
1. Personal space: The personal device also intrudes the personal space. Your business enters your home, your friends enter your bedroom, and your personal communications enter your work environment. A personal device makes the person a publicly available commodity.
2. Physical Social Interaction: While Facebook on your iPhone is a perfect way to get in touch with your family and friends if they are away and getting updates on what they are up to, establishing a physical connection is important for human society. There was a recent incident when a Facebook user came to know about the death of his cousin only when he checked his wall in the morning!
3. Health and Related Issues: As long as we do not have pervasive devices, the reach of these would be limited to people sitting in a chair in their houses or at best sitting static elsewhere with such a device in their palm. Almost all addictive personal devices/services restrict movement and physical activity.
4. Growth of the Society in the Real World: All of us have many followers on Twitter or 'friends' on FB who we do not interact at all in the physical world. Social fabric needs a much larger level of physical interaction lest we become isolated zombies with interaction only in the virtual world.
Most companies in the fray do no research on the social impacts of their product apart from an ROI perspective. The market research for such products/services is limited to finding out how successful it would be, and no effort is spent on gauging the social impact. How the product will change society is something people prefer to wait and see rather than predict!