Social Media: Is it heading for an implosion?

To satisfy our innate curiosity we as a race seek out more and more information. I can remember in the “old days” when a research report for school meant hours at the library and lively but hushed conversations in the “stacks” as we strove for the grades our parents expected, nay, demanded.  Now, we don’t have to leave our homes to expand our brains anymore. Remember Mathilda and her daily trek to the library to read the books her parents refused her? Our daily trek is a click, click, click.

Information overload is the new wmd that haunts us all.

Ten years ago I remember saying to a friend that the anonymity of the internet would lead to a change in human behavior. When bulletin boards and chat rooms started popping up there was the tendency to speak or behave in a way we would never ever consider in face-to-face conversations. I can remember conversations with “online” friends where another “online” friend had done something that IRL would have been unforgivable. We were bold and we were inconsiderate. We were brave and we were stupid. Those of us running an online business were told that a photo and address on our website would promote trust and bring us more business. Then we were told that if you weren’t attractive don’t put a photo up on your website, you’ll scare off business (yes I in fact heard those very words).

Fast forward to the eve of 2009 and we’ve progressed to the point where you can’t be as anonymous  as we once were and so online behavior has finally started to come around to the point where only teenage boys and men destined to be a guest on Dateline spoil our online conversations.

Now we have Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Ning, Geni (new one I just joined), Flickr, Orkut, etc etc. Email gets sent to our phones, applications have been written that allow you to be “followed” no matter where you are at the moment. We can’t escape. Even spam has begrudgingly become an accepted part of life.

We are attached, connected, unable to escape the demands of the outside world unless we physically remove ourselves and go on “digital vacations”.  Relationships that were once started by a special look across a crowded room are now memorialized by that special tweet or meeting in a chat room. That isn’t to say there aren’t some people who do it the old fashioned way, but the chance that the person sitting next to you in the waiting room at your doctors office met his or her significant other online is reaching unbelievable levels.

Our kids will consider all of this normal. My childhood consisted of dinner at 6pm with mom and dad and my siblings. Conversations were awkwards sometimes but we had them face to face. There have been times (we were being silly of course) when I’ve called my daughter on her cell phone when I knew she was in the house somewhere. Laziness? force of habit? Probably both.

The high demands that Social Media puts on us as a race is going to propel us to a point where we will finally say, enough is enough and run the other way to hide from all the input. Have you ever held a newborn baby in a crowded room with bright lights and lots of faces and watched it try to focus? The baby does focus on the person carrying it if held in the right direction. We need that type of focus and as more and more “social media’ gets introduced we risk an implosion, an internalization, a lack of direction.