Imagine it is five o’clock in the afternoon and your sitting in the sun with an ice cold beer. Later, you and your friends go to a bar and have some more drinks. At around two thirty you write on your ex-girlfriend’s Facebook profile how much you love her. When she doesn’t respond, you twitter her a verbal tantrum. The next morning you wake up with a massive hangover and you can barely remember what happened the night before. Now, the last things you want to worry about are the embarrassing messages you sent the night before. Fortunately, Apple has come up with a new App for the Iphone that can instantly eraseall messages of the previous night in one click, also called “last night never happened” or the ‘morning-after App’ (Van Der Zwaag, 2011).
Human beings seem to be dominated by social interaction. ‘We crave social communication and suffer profoundly if we are temporarily isolated from society’ (Morris, Tarassenko, & Kenward, 2006). Our brain has evolved to deal with social interactions, just as technology has evolved to permit 24 hour social interaction. In my opinion, social media is dominating people’s life. Their entire social life is online and can be read by everyone.
With the box office success of the movie The Social Network and the recent unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, the power of the social media seems to have once again risen to the forefront of public debate. Although large news networks such as CNN and BBC seem hesitant to elaborate on the impact of sites such as Facebook and Twitter in the (ongoing) revolutions of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria and other countries, internet blogs were quick to dub them “the Facebook revolutions”. The power of these social networks has been cited to lay in the potential to unite like-minded people all over the world, with as little intermediate nodes as possible (Thurlow, Lengel, and Tomic, 2004, p. 115).
While brainstorming on our group research project last week, we came across the 'Mozart effect', which was a social hype in the '90s. In their 1993 article in Nature, Rausher, Shaw & Ky found that after listening to Mozart's sonatas, subjects experienced a temporary increase in spatial intelligence. This phenomenon was soon dubbed the Mozart effect and suddenly extended in potential, when it was claimed to increase IQ and “actually make you smarter” as New York Times columnist Alex Ross wrote in 1994. All of this when spatial intelligence is only one of Gardners seven intelligences and is limited to spatial reasoning and puzzle solving.
I am standing at the train station and see the bus, I had to take, leaving…again… for the third time…without me! The driver doesn’ t wait till everyone arrives from the platform. Since there is no stationmaster it is not possible to complain or talk to anyone. One opportunity to show how upset I am would be to twitter it to the world. Since I am not a fan of twittering I prefer to dial the number on the time table and talk to a friendly woman who understands my problem and is considering to change the time table. So maybe I do not have to wait anymore in the future. I definitely chose the right communication medium since contacting the bus company via twitter is not possible yet. My conclusion: Social media still has a long way to go if the intention is to improve the communication between people.
The Web is great, easy, powerful and effortless. Most people will agree on this and, hence the multiple blogs concerning i.e. social media, it is apparently the only thing we can talk about. Or the most interesting. Therefore I would like to stress that there is more than online information and communication and that we have to look beyond the borders of these shallow, flat platforms of processing and maintaining information.
As I am writing this, I am also checking my Twitter and Facebook account. And I’m not alone. Millions of people are sharing their joys, complaints and how-they-drink-their-coffee parables using the social web daily. Although the possibilities and challenges of social media are often subject of discussion, the situation remains the same: the world of today, and that of tomorrow, is filled with communication via the world wide web. However, it could be questioned whether this revolution of social networks can be encountered as a contributing element to society or, on the contrary, it is holding back the ‘human’ communication. But if so, is that a negative development?