I continue processing my backlog of unread articles. One of the better ones was Zeynep Tufekci’s Social Media’s Small, Positive Role in Human Relationships. It was a breath of fresh air in the stale debate that social media is ruining conversation.
As a social media researcher and a user, every time I read one of these “let’s panic” articles about social media (and there are many), I want to shout: Look at TV! Look at commutes! Look at suburbs! Look at long work hours!
What evidence we do have does not suggest a displacement of one type of conversation (offline) with another (online). All data I’ve seen say that people who use social media are either also more social offline; or that they have benefited from social media to keep in touch with people they otherwise could not; or that many people find fellows, peers and like-minded individuals they otherwise could not find. In other words, texting, Facebook-status updates, and Twitter conversations are not displacing face-to-face socializing — on average, they are making them stronger. Social media is enhancing human connectivity as people can converse in ways that were once not possible. Surveys also show that most families think social media enhances their family life — they can stay in touch better, more frequently.
I almost stood and clapped. For me, this was a rare voice speaking against a crowd condemning social media.
I also found myself thinking of the phrase “casting pearls before swine”. With the current climate, I am not sure how many people appreciate a non-dystopian picture of social media.
The only thing I do not like about the article is how it has spawned more articles I now have to pocket for reading later!