Social networking used to mean pouring yourself into a cocktail or three in some setting that looked like it came straight out of “Mad Men.” Now virtually everyone seems to interact online – or everyone online seems to interact virtually.
Our whole lives can be lived online – shopping, working, listening to music, watching movies, talking to your family in Texas or friends in Ireland by Skype or having groceries delivered. Whole political campaigns are now waged online as a way of getting activists angry enough to fill out a petition by clicking a button.
We’ve become so social that we’re anti-social. The latest 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll says it’s all one big waste of time. More than one third of Americans (36%) pick social networking “as their biggest waste of time” – even beating fantasy sports (25%) and watching TV (23%). (Interestingly, silly poll questions weren’t on the list.)
But just how believable is that? “The Social Network,” a new movie very loosely about the founding of Facebook, topped the box office with $23 million in its first weekend – more than twice what any other movie got. So I could write something about protesting too much but then I’d have to use Google to look up the exact quote or find it on Wikipedia.
Maybe we should share the results with friends via Google Chat or on Facebook, buried beneath Farmville comments about rutabagas and shared videos with insightful comments like “dude” and “fail.” Or there’s Twitter, the ultimate minimalist communication with only 140 characters for your comments and thousands of characters to follow you – if you are lucky. Or there’s just plain old texting (TXTing) and e-mailing and posting videos of people texting and e-mailing. Or e-mailing photos of people doing videos of texting. Well, you get the picture.
It’s a wonder we get anything done. The world has become obsessed about social media like nothing ever before. Sure, Americans swallowed a ton of goldfish, packed themselves into thousands of phone booths and even bought a fortune in Pet Rocks. But none of those was so gratifying and ego stroking as interactive media where everyone can be a king or a pundit.
Social media defines our self-centered society because it lets each one of us become a star. It’s … hey, I like that, I better go post that on Twitter before someone else does.
Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center’s Vice President for Business and Culture. His writes frequently for Fox News Opinion. He can also be contacted on FaceBook and Twitter as dangainor.