Putting Social Media in its “place”

There was a very interesting interview on The Colbert Report on Monday, Jan 17th with MIT Professor Sherry Turkle on Social Media and how we should consider forming some basic guidelines on when to use Social Media and when to put the phone/computer away and direct all your attention on the person or task at hand.   Please watch this interview here:

(Be sure to select the Jan 17th Episode)
Now, the premise of the interview was to explore issues from Sherry’s new book, “Alone Together: Why we expect more from Technology and less from each other“.  Stephen Colbert was quick to try and “nail” his guest, using his character and clever wit to catch this author out.  Sherry Turkle made many great points in the interview about how the rise of Social Media has invaded personal spaces (checking an iPhone at a funeral?) and that the frequency and simplicity of Social Media has ‘dumbed down’ or reduced our interaction to tiny bites, rather than whole conversations.

There are many interesting ways to look at this, and Stephen Colbert did challenge Sherry Turkle on many assumptions, one good point he made was that many small interactions can be as good as one medium interaction, or no interaction at all.  We do get to know each other through these ‘micro-interactions’ on social media spaces.  It does, however, take longer to end up at the same space we might get to a lot sooner through focused conversation.  This sparked excellent dialogue and discussion between Sherry and Stephen, which ultimately proved Sherry’s point!  The debate and detailed discussion they were able to have would have been very difficult over Twitter, limited to only 140 characters!

So, what can we take away from this?  Well I think its important to remember to put that smartphone away when you have someone or something in front of you that wishes to engage, or needs to get done!  Just because you can jump online and tweet about something, does not mean it can’t wait 20 mins until you have the moment to step away from the conversation or activity you are currently involved in.

We should contine using Social Media, this is certain.  We just need to learn new protocols on when to fully immerse and when it is ok to “check out” from whats in front of us, and into our phones/computers/social networks.  We also need to accept that we cannot do it all at the same time!  Multi-tasking may sound nice, but it’s really only dividing up a small amount of attention to multiple things, where everything and everyone suffers a little bit.  Lets not be “Alone Together” like Sherry Turkle talks about.  Lets engage with each other offline when we are in each other’s presence.  Lets engage online when we are away from each other!  Give the people around you the attention they give you, and we will all do allright.

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