by Trevor Seal
Throughout the past decade or so, social networking is a cultural phenomenon that has take hold the world over. Like many technological innovations, social networking, by way of the internet, has changed the way we as people not only interact with each other, but how we relate to each other as well. As with the inception of the television during the mid-twentieth century, social networking provides people and corporations alike to reach out to a broader and more diverse group of people in a more time efficient manner. Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and many more similar sites exist today that you would be hard pressed to find a person who either doesn’t have a profile on one or more of these sites or at the very least have a work knowledge of them. However, as with any major development on a mass sociological scale on the a whole, there are those who would choose to resist or even opt out of participation completely. There are consequences for every choice we make in life and this one is no exception to the rule. What are the consequences for opting out of social networking? Is it too early to ascertain what they may be? Or can we already see what the fall out might entail from such a choice. The context of popular culture theory and observation may provide some insight into this inquiry.
To grasp what the possible outcomes of opting out of social networking, it may prove useful to define what social networking is, what it provides as well as takes away if anything. Social networking or (SW) as I will be referring to it form this point on, as I have come to understand it is “ Any site on the web that connects your profile to anyone else’s’ that logs onto that particular site and in which any amount of information including: conversation, advertisements, music, video and images can be sent and received.” It the above is an adept definition of SW, then how could such a thing ever be considered bad? Who would deny the benefits of being able to send and receive a virtually limitless amount of information spanning nearly every form of media at the click of a mouse cursor?
There are some that would argue that SW robs the masses of their ability to pursue and sustain interpersonal relationships; that the art of conversation is a skill slowly fading out of existence. With that, online dating is something that is worth mentioning and is a direct result of “cybernization” of the social landscape. All these aspects can been interpreted as Horkheimer and Adorno’s theory that popular or “mass” culture is produced industrially rather than by the culture in and of its self. Produced in such variety that people of virtually all preferences have something to “buy into” so that none may escape. Which brings us back to the original question; Why would somebody choose not to participate in something that has something to offer to everyone? I assert that the answer lies in any given person’s tendency to gravitate towards paranoia. That is, they fear the implication of social control over the proclamation of social liberation. If that is indeed the case then what are the consequences of choosing to remain outside their perceived notion of social control?
I suppose that the obvious answer is that they then choose to ostracize themselves from the bulk of society. As more and more people defect to the online world, fewer are there to interact with in the “real world”. One could be forgiven for saying that they then would be considered “left in the dust” of contemporary society. Darwin had a theory that ties directly into this. He stated that a species, or members of a species, that are unable to adapt to their changing conditions can’t support themselves in their new environment and thus die out making room for the new. Of course there is little data to substantiate these claims, therefore I believe that this topic necessitates further study to determine where our society is heading.