He commented that “perhaps this increasing human need to relate is being perpetuated by Web 2.0 enablement technologies standing on (and encouraging even greater dependencies) the shoulders of the mobile phone and the internet”. And he cited some modern examples of how important being or feeling connected is becoming, for example:
- “Schoolchildren checking mobiles for missed calls & SMS texts every few minutes.”
- Old style “Internet content writers wanting to be the top search result in internet search engines (disconnected follower-ship)” versus “the new notion of creating passive ‘as it happens’ Twitter follower-ship.”
- “Psychologically for people to want to be constantly visible amongst their peers, and as Maslow’s hierarchy might dictate, ultimately perceived as the metaphoric rock/movie star that everyone must follow in every great detail, any way they can, as soon as they can.”
This interests me because of the growing phenomenon of what I refer to as the hive mind experience that many Twitter users have had.
That is where one becomes so used to being loosely connected to a large number of people that disconnection from the group induces feelings of mild anxiety or “feeling weird”. I often joke about it with friends but their laugh sometimes tells me it’s not really a joke – we do feel a bit strange when disconnected from the collective.
We do not know yet what kind of impact this level of connectedness will have on social interaction. But there is already evidence that this connectedness enables mob-like activity – such as mobilizing people for a cause (e.g. Cotton On Kids or Motrin Moms ). My friend Mark Pesce contemplates some of these themes on his blog and in particular in his Nexus post.
But Sheetal also raised another issue, that we might be developing a “population of individuals who are extremely connected and incredibly well-followed (predominantly in the Twitter third-person context) but suffer from fundamental inabilities to create and maintain physical relationships and oblivious (or in self-denial?) of the daily need to maintain and develop first/second person interactions as part of everyone’s physical daily existence”.
That is an interesting question. It is also the complete opposite of my own experience with Twitter. Instead, through meeting people on Twitter and over time getting to know them in real life, I now have a much richer set of personal relationships.
At dinner the other night I was discussing just this issue with a bunch of people who had all met initially via Twitter but were now good friends in real life. We maintain those relationships – both on and offline – using time honoured techniques such as having conversations, sharing ideas and opinions, and getting together to share meals or attend events.
What I suspect is happening is that people without social skills in real life find it just as difficult to build and maintain relationships in other places too, including online.
Further, the network amplification effects of social network relationship matrices serve to amplify the knowledge of any social failures. Thus, where once a social failure was constrained in time and place, it might now be recorded digitally forever. Also that social failure has the potential to go viral and become known more widely than ever before – such is the power of YouTube and its ilk.