Can we describe an iPad as a “computer”…? Read More
it seems this has been around forever, but somehow it’s even more relevant today Read More
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life – Steve Jobs Read More
Why would I be there if I didn’t? Read More
The man behind the design of the iPod and more Read More
“..the dark genius of their film lies elsewhere, beyond the parameters of its slick intentions, in the wild social ether where nobody knows who anybody is” [NY Times review of the movie Catfish]
Why does it matter who is eating whose lunch on the Internet?” [Malcolm Gladwell - New Yorker 10/04/10]
“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” [New Yorker cartoon.]
Let’s not confuse society, social and community
It doesn’t seem so long ago that society and social went hand in hand. There have been many writings about differing societies throughout history – Nomadic Pastoral, Agricultural, Horticultural or simple farming societies – and there has been plenty of debate over the marked difference between Industrial and post-Industrial societies. The common thread throughout though is that they were all phases of civilization. Historically, societies have tended to form to resolve issues, effect social change or for other positive purposes.
For a society to form, likeminded social beings are required. Humans are pretty good on the whole, at being social.
Social anthropology provides so many answers to human behavior, and today that information is available via technology right at our keyboards, which, to parse Marshall McLuhan, are an extension of our fingers. And although technology has shortened the distance between millions of people, we all still skip to the thrum of our baked-in anthropological nudges.
Before I go on, it’s worth pointing out that we shouldn’t confuse society and community. This link points to almost everything you’d need to know about community.
“To feel part of a community people need to share a sense of purpose, a common set of values and beliefs. And for the community to grow and thrive it needs to draw on collective resource and a culture of support and interdependence to meet common needs and defend against shared risk.” – Olivia Knight at eatbigfish
Does that sound like Facebook to you?
Why do I say that we skip to the thrum of our baked-in anthropological nudges? Well, let’s look at Facebook with its 500 million users. That’s a half billion people. It’s also a large pool of users to study and there have been studies.
A 2009 Read Write Web article, points out that Facebook users actually interact with very few of their ‘friends’ - “According to Cameron Marlow, Facebook’s ‘in-house sociologist,’ that number is four if you are male and six if you are female. Marlow’s research indicates that the average Facebook user has a network of about 120 friends, but only has two-way conversations with a very small subset of these ‘friends.’ Interestingly, even for those users who have a far larger number of friends (500+), those numbers barely grow [ten for men and sixteen for women].”
So four friends do not a community make. And six is barely larger than most modern households; according to sociologists, a social unit larger than a household is the norm for when communities form. On another note, there’s Dunbar’s number, which is a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. That number is 150. Can we call those 500+ Facebook users a “community” when they don’t actually interact with each other?