Does technology make us less social or do we choose to be?

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aspiecoder
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25 Sep 2021, 10:57 pm

TL;DR: see the bottom paragraph.

I want to explore an alternative to the popular opinion that technology is making us less social and destroying society etc. This kind of fearmongering seems to be everywhere nowadays and while social media does have some potential for harm (I'm not disputing this), people, and especially young people, still seem to be choosing to use it more than ever. I'm of the opinion that the changes are largely being driven by the market rather than simply being imposed on it. Yes there is some manipulation by large companies as well, but I just don't think anyone at the top of the big companies is that much of a mastermind that they have that level of control. Most of it is guesswork or the result of market analysis. I think they're good at predicting what the market wants and capitalizing on that, but I still think there's potential for new players to drive the market in a different direction. This is natural selection at the culture level.

So my question is:
Instead of technology causing us to lose this hypothetical society / culture where we were apparently all social extroverts before (news flash - we weren't - we just didn't have a choice), what if technology merely allows us the opportunity to survive without needing to be as social, and it turns out that a whole bunch of us are a lot happier this way and simply choose a different lifestyle?

Now, I think there's a lot more nuance than this, because many of us would choose to still socialize a bit if given the opportunity, but I for one find that real opportunities to socialize in the way I want simply don't exist or they're rare. I wouldn't have been happy with the social culture of decades past, but I'm also not thrilled with the approaches today. For example I do NOT enjoy going to a noisy pub for lunch with 20 other people I barely know.

However, I do see potential for technology to solve some of the problems I see around me. Online dating has taken off and has connected people with other people they would never have otherwise met. The dating pool has therefore expanded dramatically. Unfortunately this hasn't really extended to friendships yet - although it's only a matter of time before that goes mainstream. Yes there are apps like meetup etc and many others are popping up, but I think "online friendship" apps are still in their infancy and I still think there's a lot more space to explore here. Too many of these apps are geared towards extroverts or extrovert lifestyles. More friends, larger groups, more socializing, more this, more that. I think there's still a lot of room for apps / platforms that cater to introverts and neurodivergent people. If you know of some, please suggest them!

Let me put it another way. I have no problems talking with people one on one or in small groups, face to face. But I don't want to do that for hours on end just to eventually figure out that the people I'm chatting with are not interested in the same things as me. Technology allows us to screen / filter a lot of this out before we even meet, which seems like a win to me. Others may disagree.

There is value in expanding our horizons too and talking with people who are different, but I'd like that to be my choice rather than it being forced on me.

Getting back to my question... do you think technology actually allows introverts to not have to socialize as much? and that we might simply be discovering that people actually prefer more alone time if given the opportunity? If you could literally choose the amount of socializing you wanted to do, would you do it more? or less? I think what is happening in society is that more of us now have this choice than ever before, and we're actually choosing less.

What do you think?



Mona Pereth
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26 Sep 2021, 6:03 am

aspiecoder wrote:
However, I do see potential for technology to solve some of the problems I see around me. Online dating has taken off and has connected people with other people they would never have otherwise met. The dating pool has therefore expanded dramatically.

For those for whom it works, great! But online dating has also created lots of problems for a lot of other people. See the "Love and Dating" section of Wrong Planet for lots of discussion of the problems resulting from online dating.

aspiecoder wrote:
Unfortunately this hasn't really extended to friendships yet - although it's only a matter of time before that goes mainstream. Yes there are apps like meetup etc and many others are popping up, but I think "online friendship" apps are still in their infancy and I still think there's a lot more space to explore here.

What would your ideal "friendship app" be like? What would it do, and how?


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aspiecoder
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26 Sep 2021, 7:23 am

I don't think online dating is great in its current form but it does offer some advantages, primarily around connecting people who are looking for the same things. I think once the connection is made, dating is better done via more traditional means from that point on (which includes online messaging - even offline dating includes online messaging these days).

Friendship is similar I think. I'm not talking about online friendships where you never meet in person, although that's certainly possible to do. I'm really talking about real, offline friendships where you simply discover each other online and then take it from there. I see potential for finding like-minded people who share common interests via an app or website, and there are some websites for this already - my point was that it's not yet what I would consider "mainstream". For me it would look something like a cross between meetup and a dating website, but where the focus is explicitly for friendship only, and there should be limits on group size. There's an app called We3 which is also pretty interesting but I'd prefer a We2 option and more granular interests lol. I just think there's a lot more that could be done in this area.



Fnord
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26 Sep 2021, 10:06 am

Technology is the catalyst, not the cause. It enables us to choose to be anti-social and isolated better than radio, TV, and writing letters ever could.



aspiecoder
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27 Sep 2021, 5:30 am

We create technology and it shapes us in return. It's a feedback loop in many ways.



shlaifu
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23 Oct 2021, 8:49 pm

aspiecoder wrote:
We create technology and it shapes us in return. It's a feedback loop in many ways.


the great thing about socially distancing technologies is that they keep other people and other people's problems away. We can now more easily than ever chose whether we are willong to listen to anyone complaining, ir whining, or having real problems we can't do anyrhing about anyway, and listening to them feels like a waste of time.

But at some point we realized that no one is willing to listen to our issues either.

I mean, when was tge last time any of us just called up someone - not text messaged, but called- to ask how things are going?


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DuckHairback
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24 Oct 2021, 10:37 am

I think that as humans, we all have a desire to be social. That desire can be greater or lesser but I think we all have it.

The trouble with social media, as I see it, is that it scratches the social itch to some extent, but it isn't fully satiating.

An example from my own life. I quit Facebook and Twitter when I realised this: I was watching the lives of people I had known at school for maybe 3 or 4 years. Social media had allowed us to 'reconnect' but I hadn't actually laid eyes on them or spoken to them for 20 years. I didn't even message them, just read their posts. So somehow I knew a lot about them, what they looked like now, how many kids they had, where they went on holiday, music they liked etc. Between these tentpoles of 'knowledge' I was mentally filling in the gaps, fleshing them out. I had an idea of who these people were and they felt like people I knew but they were almost entirely my own creation.

And these people, these constructions of mine, we're filling the gaps where my friends should be. They had no idea how big a part of my life they were. And still I felt friendless.

The desire to socialise is strong and for those of use who find socialising a struggle, for whatever reason, we need all that desire to push us to overcome the struggle. When something like social media turns up and satisfies part (but not all) of that desire, there's still desire left but maybe not enough to push us over the top. The deficit then has to come from willpower and that can be hard to muster. And if we fail it has repercussions for self-esteem and we might find it even harder next time to try, safer to stay online.

It's not a problem for everyone. But for those whom it is a problem, I think it can be bad news.

As for internet dating, I don't get it. I can't see a business model for an internet dating service that profits from successfully doing what it is supposed to be doing. It's far more profitable to keep people dating (i.e. coming back to the service to find new dates over and over) than to find someone whom they settle down with and never use the service again.

It's the problem of too much choice. Part of developing a relationship with someone is overcoming adversity. You have to invest time and energy. It's not as exciting as the initial phase of dating, where people are new and full of possibility, but it's deeper and ultimately more rewarding. But it's hard work, emotionally.

So what internet dating does is say, "Hey look, there's x number of alternatives to the relationship you've just started that's getting difficult and it'll be exciting again and maybe the next one will be 'the one' for you, and incidentally here's an advert for whitening toothpaste."

There is zero incentive to invest anything when dating is that easy.

That said, I'm also surprised that there isn't a successful social network designed to bring people together as platonic friends. It may be because culturally it's acceptable to say "I'm looking for love" for less so to say "I haven't got any friends and I'm lonely."