Rethinking Social Networking

by on January 23, 2015

How communication changes gears on the social web, and why that can be worrying

Jonathan Harris, an American artist and computer scientist whose work seeks to combine cross-disciplinary perspectives of technology and art, points out the emergence of four trends that shape social networking today.

  • Compression. The most remarkable among these trends is compression, which relates to the evolution of information into successively smaller and smaller packages, adapting to changes in consuming habits. The new web with its capacities for social networking focuses especially on the shortening and speeding up of information. Messages get shorter, and the means to communicate them get faster.
  • Disposability. Harris proposes that the speed of communication notwithstanding, social networking is nevertheless not the most idea place for self expression. This, he argues, is mainly because of the nature of the information and the speed with it moves digitally. As the web makes it easier and easier for more people to manufacture content, it also makes the same information instantly replaceable with torrents of new content blazing behind by seconds in its wake.
  •  Curation. The explosion of content and the the ease with which it can be shared and spread means that increasing number of people are taking to assembling, collecting and curating content as way of expressing themselves. Driven by services like Tumblr and Pinterest (and a horde of others), there is an increasing trend of seeing existing content as an extension of yourself than creating it yourself.
  •  Self-Promotion. While not exactly new, the ubiquity of Facebook and similar services fosters a growing trend of narcissism. Online profiles become self-advertisements, with users marketing themselves in the best way possible. Harris argues that this is worrying on several levels, because it can create insecurity, anxiety and a tendency to constantly compare yourselves to others.
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