Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Not Another Social Network!

I opened my iTunes today to see "Ping" prominently displayed on an entire panel to the right. And my first thought was...not another social network.
Yes, it is getting to be too much. It is now quite irritating. I really do not need a social network for every single hobby, passion, like or dislike I have. Maybe I do not want to talk or share it with the world. Maybe I do. But whatever, I think that the technology people are going overboard with the social network craze/malaise!!

I think there are both technological, social and cultural reasons for this sudden craze. Of course, the first is obvious: technology "affords" this (Donald Norman, DOET) so we can now make this happen. And the underlying techno-social reason (I do not know if that is yet a word, if not, it needs to be) is the new technological race for more product ideas, coupled with the current craze for start-ups. If somebody has a reasonably decent but half-baked idea, they will either make it a new product or launch a new start-up. I really don't know if the so-called technology geeks even think of things from the non-technological point-of-view. The masses, so to speak, that they are designing for. These are the people who are surrounded by similar thinking "geeks" all the time, so when discussing ideas with each other, the idea becomes a self- perpetuating wish-fulfilling prophecy which will make them the quick millions they are hoping for. And they tell me high-tech start-up failure rates are high. Oh Well!

Social networks as an idea are pretty much done to death. Since the tech-geek obviously wants to do a start-up and despite being (or maybe because of) a geek, still thinks that social networks are cool and how about a new one for music/ poetry/ Jane Austen (that's an idea! maybe I should make my own Jane Austen social network). On second thoughts, do the geeks know Jane Austen exists?

Yes, I do think technology has its uses- after all, I am here writing my personal rant on social networks which I will then link to Facebook ;) - but I think that sometimes a good thing can be taken too far. There are aspects of my life that I may not want to make public. There is only so much technology can do to make life easier. And there is life outside of the aura of the computer screen.

Another thing that I feel strongly about- especially in this country- is that this proliferation of technology further contributes to the high rate of depression and loneliness here. We all know that nothing can replace human contact, words, touch, a hug. Or to put it more blatantly, computer ke saath so nahi sakte. Doesn't this incessant ubiquitous technology take us a further step apart from actual human contact? So now I have a social network online to discuss my esoteric (or not) music tastes rather than sit around with a bunch of friends actually listening to the music?

Again, here I think Meetup does a great job, using technology as a tool to create social settings, bring like-minded people together in person. So does Facebook, connecting people across the world. And that should be the purpose of technology. It is a means to an end, not an end in itself, something that we tend to forget. Lets get together in person, and hug and kiss and love and cry and rant and rage! Or lets form a new Meetup group about it ;)