A thought on a benefit of social networking

July 28, 2017 ยท 2 minute read

Posted in: miniblogging social culture

The trend in thinking about social networking is pretty negative, and to an extent this is justified. The usual complaints are that social networking substitutes superficial interactions for more meaningful ones, and that commercial social networking (the only kind most people use) manipulate your emotions for monetizing them. But I want to highlight an under-appreciated benefit.

We are often encouraged to use direct communications rather than social media: phone calls, text messages, email. And these are all good, in their ways. But they all also are, well, direct. Using them implies that you expect to notify the recipient(s) directly and ensure that they see it, that you’re maybe willing to interrupt what they’re doing, that you want to single them out in some sense, that you expect a reply. And that can be stressful to do, especially for introverts, and maybe not entirely appropriate for keeping in touch with acquaintances rather than close friends.

Social networking is kind of ambient…like you sort of let people keep track of how you’re doing, and they let you keep track of them. No one necessarily expects any kind of reply or engagement, and you can choose what level you want to engage at (e.g. like, boost, or reply).

I think this is valuable, and that we should keep doing it. What we need is to make social networking less horrible by providing better implementations and better culture. Which is slowly happening on Mastodon and elsewhere.


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