I’ve always found “social networking” curious. Most of the world treats it as the flagship of utter socialization mostly because of two features, the constant and instantaneous flow of information and the ability to converse with people that you probably would not have talked to in the first place. In short, you can sit in a cafe in Boston and hear all about your aunt’s day in California without effort. This has led everyone from CNN to my grandfather to adopt Facebook, Twitter, and the like into their everyday lives.
Both features hold true for some people, some only one. However, we can group most people into three groups.
1. The Socialite
You know this person. It’s the girl with 5000 Facebook friends. The guy that follows you on Twitter and then gets pissed when you don’t follow him back. Every non-bot Twitter-er that has followed a bot. This is the person who latched onto the “general idea” of social networking that I listed above and rode it as far as it would go. This is probably the most active user, it’ll update its status or tweet frequently. Comments on anything that is viewed, even though he isn’t leaving anything useful behind. If the internet was a sitcom high school, this would be the stereotypical cheerleader that made sure that everyone knew exactly how popular she was.
I hate these people. Why? Because, believe it or not, they are not social networkers. The idea of internet friends is to make a connection with people that you can’t be with in meatspace (I love that word, it’s more appropriate than “real life”. I think that I’ll use it more often.). A person with 5000 friends is not going to find the time to connect with a single one. Instead the “communication” is left to vague updates or tweets. Frankly, this person is more focused on winning an unspoken contest among the other Socialites than any real socializing. Of course, that’s a game that has no winner. You might have the most friends, but you still lose.
You might say that I am a Socialite. After all, I am a bit of a whore for social media; I have a Twitter account and an internet journal, both of which demonstrate the depth of my ego. This would hold true if I pushed around how many people visit these sites, which would show that I need to compare e-peens with everyone else. I could post my daily pageviews, for example. But I don’t, because I’m not a tool. The fact that my writings are being seen are validation enough.
This is the person who friended most of the people at his school or club. He typically uses Facebook for organizing events in meatspace or to chat with a friend that he cannot be face-to-face with at that very moment. However, these are all people that he knows personally, and he probably hangs out with quite a few of them in meatspace settings. Probably doesn’t use Twitter. Typically sees “extended relationships” though Facebook as chatting with people who moved away or family members that he rarely sees.
This is the majority of the population. Vanilla.
This is the interesting case, and the classification that I would argue that I belong in. Here is a person who, get this, uses social media to isolate himself from the majority of the populace.
The brilliant thing about social networking is that it allows you to be selective with who you speak to.
Let me explain this using myself as an case study. I have a Facebook that I used to be a Casual with, now it operates as a glorified email system. Your already know about AC and Twitter, obviously, as well as my email addresses and the various other things on my contact page. That’s pretty much the extent of my “social networking” in official formats.
I really don’t like people. I just don’t. Yeah, yeah, I sound like an emo brat, but it’s true. And as a misanthrope, I must say that being forced to be nice to everyone in my everyday life is utterly maddening. There’s nothing quite like wanting to call someone out on their utter stupidity, but you cannot because they are your boss, or worse, they would use physical violence as a retort. Yes, there are a few benefits of being clever, one of them being that you can insult idiots without them knowing, but that’s the problem. There’s no victory in it if they don’t understand that you just insulted them. It’s sad.
There’s something wonderful about the internet, in the sense that it frees you from these restraints. No, you can’t write “I just fucked your mother” on the “wall” of your boss, but you can bitch out the healer for pulling aggro. Or a Youtube video, if you sunk low enough to comment on one, that is clearly flawed. And so on, you get the point.
However, if you were to find someone in the cesspool that is the internet then a strong friendship can be forged. Rose pedals will fly from the keyboard as you Facebook each other and every Twitter @(name) will be filled with joy. That’s the thing, though. You were able to pick this one person out of literally thousands of idiots, a feat that you could never accomplish in meatspace. Even the circle of people that you call “friends” probably has one person that you really, really wish wouldn’t be there. On the screen? That guy would be gone.
Thus, I propose that social networking is actually an isolation tool, or more appropriately, a method for the anti-social to be social. Yes, it allows you to connect with people that you like, people that share the same interests as you and don’t make you want to put a pneumatic drill through your eye socket, but it isolates you from everyone else in the world. Frankly, I don’t see anything wrong with that, the less time I spend with idiots the happier I am. However, much like the US during WWII, isolationism can lead to everyone thinking that you’re a massive dick. This is not good for your everyday life, and more importantly it’s not good for your business prospects. Thus, we keep trudging through the mud that is socializing with the common man, always wishing that we were speaking to a person a thousand miles away, a person that we might know only by a psuedonym. I predict that the ability to cut people that we don’t like is going to build up in a few generations to the point where everyone is going to be a misogynistic bastard because we can’t stand each other.
My argument is as rambling as it is incoherent, so let me sum it up. Social networking isolates people. This means one of two things is going to happen: we will either
A. Change what it means to be a “friend” to the point where isolationism is no longer possible. The common man will accept that internet friends are real friends and will stop bothering me about how many people know me in “real life”.
B. Change the definition of “isolationism” to something that allows for my idea of a social circle. This will require restricting the term “anti-social” to only apply to someone who refuses to speak to anyone at all, in any format.