Saturday, March 23, 2013

Our Wired Community

In the movie, Craigslist Joe, Joe Garner embarks on a social experiment. He wants to find out if it’s true that technology and social media have destroyed community. “Have we gotten so caught up in our own lives that we don’t notice life outside our bubble?” he asks. 

Armed with only a cell phone and a laptop, he lives for 31 days off the kindness of strangers he finds on Craigslist. His experiences are weird, crazy, funny and heart-warming. The movie seems to illustrate the theory put forward in Networked: that technology and social media have actually enriched and broadened our relationships, rather than caused increasing isolation.

Of course, having a camera along on the journey probably helped ensure Garner didn’t become the victim of a Craigslist killer.

I found Networked to paint a somewhat rosy picture of our society. The authors address some of the problems associated with a networked world in Chapter 10, Thriving as a Networked Individual. But for the most part, they gloss over the more serious issues we face as a result of the “social network revolution”.

The horrific story of the Ohio rape case involving two football players and a drunk 16-year-old girl was illustrated in graphic detail by pictures that went viral on social media. Those pictures helped convict the football players but they also are an example of what happens when everything can be captured and shared with a cellphone camera. As columnist Kathleen Parker wrote, “Endowed with miraculous gadgetry and fingertip technology that allow reflex to triumph over reason, millions of young people today have the power to parlay information without the commensurate responsibility that comes with age, experience and, inevitably, pain.”

I realize our networked culture can bring amazing benefits. I watched a news program last week that focused on the way we share experiences with others. A YouTube video of a deaf woman who is able to hear for the first time now has more than 16-million views. The  woman who was interviewed for the story said she heard from hundreds of people all over the world as a result of that video, including a man who had cancer and was inspired and uplifted by her experience.

There are so many ways to reach out to our various social networks. We can find a wealth of support and information and connect with a diverse community that is far beyond our neighborhood or work environment.

There’s no going back to a “simpler” time and if there were a way to rewind who would want really want to? I just think it’s important to heed the “rules of the game” the authors of our book suggest in Chapter 10. With every helpful internet relationship, there is also a Nigerian Prince. Not everything you read on Facebook is true. You can watch wonderful videos on YouTube, but you can also fritter away hours watching cat videos.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to disconnect.

1 comment:

  1. After reading this post, I watched Craigslist Joe. (loved it) I agree having the camera man with him made his project a little too best-case, however I think it does represent the good a networked society can provide. Can you believe the number of people offering free rides in exchange for a driving buddy?