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The Impact of Social Networking on Society 115

Anonymous Pingu writes "The latest edition of New Scientist has a series of features on social networking. These include an analysis of the impact on our social attitudes by Sherry Turkle, a feature on the possible privacy implications of using sites like MySpace and Friendster, and a short science fiction piece by Bruce Sterling. It's certainly interesting that so many people post very revealing stuff about themselves on these sites."
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The Impact of Social Networking on Society

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  • The Social Stigma (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:02AM (#16145592) Journal
    Interesting articles but I have a very basic question: Where do we get the social stigma associated with "meeting someone online"?

    We're humans. We're a gregarious species. Whenever something arises that allows us to interact with people, it's usually a good thing. But tell your parents that you met someone online and you're dating them -- hell tell anyone -- that and more often than not, they'll disapprove.

    Why? What causes this? Even the summary said it's amazing how much personal stuff people are willing to put online, isn't this a good thing if you're trying to get to know someone?

    I've heard people say that only weird people are online and that you're taking serious risks ... but I've also seen percentages that show you're just as likely to meet a deviant at a bar as on MySpace or Friendster.

    The only possible explanation I can find for this is the "it's different so it's wrong" approach a lot of people take to new things. I don't know if it's an ultra conservative viewpoint or just fear of the unknown that drives this social stigma against meeting people online.
  • by corroncho ( 1003609 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:08AM (#16145632)
    When you are able to physically distance yourself from the physical aspect of things (you know actually talking to someone), many people seem to be able to overcome their inhibitions. This is a positive thing for many people who for some reason or another have a diffucult time being themselves around others. Of course this distancing also has the power to bring out the idiot in many of us too (you know who you are)!!!
    Free iPods? Its legit [wired.com]. 5 of my friends got theirs. Get yours here! [freepay.com]
  • by necro81 ( 917438 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:09AM (#16145636) Journal
    For those of you who don't want to register (even for free) to newscientist.com.

    I Saw The Best Minds of My Generation Destroyed by Google
    by Bruce Sterling

    Los Angeles, 2026

    Ted got busted because we do graffiti. Losing Ted was a big setback, as Ted was the only guy in our gang who knew how to steal aerosol spray cans. As potent instruments of teenage social networking, aerosol spray cans have "high abuse potential". So spray cans are among the many things us teenagers can't buy, like handguns, birth control, alcohol, cigarettes and music with curse words.

    I tried hard to buy us another spray can. I'm a street poet, so really, I tried. I walked up to the mall-store register, disguised in my Dad's business jacket, with cash in hand. They're cheap, aerosol spray cans. Beautiful colours of paint, just screaming to get sprayed someplace public where everybody has to see what's on our minds. The store wouldn't sell me the can. The e-commerce system simply would not allow that transaction. The screen just went gray and stayed gray.

    That creepy "differential permissioning" sure saves a lot of trouble for grown-ups. Increasing chunks of the world are just... magically off limits. It's a weird new regime where every mall and every school and every bus and train and jet is tagged and tracked and ambient and pervasive and ubiquitous and geolocative... Jesus, I love those words... Where was I?

    Right. We teenagers have to live in "controlled spaces". Radio-frequency ID tags, real-time locative systems, global positioning systems, smart doorways, security videocams. They "protect" us kids, from imaginary satanic drug dealer terrorist mafia predators. We're "secured". We're juvenile delinquents with always-on cellphone nannies in our pockets. There's no way to turn them off. The internet was designed without an off-switch.

    So my pal Ted, who stupidly loved to tag his own name on the walls, got sent to reform school, where the security is insanely great. Me, I had a much higher grade-point average than Ted, but with no handy Ted to steal spray cans, the words of the prophet have vanished from the subway walls. So much for my campaign to cover the town with graffiti street-stencils of my favourite teen pop stars: George Orwell and Aldous Huxley.

    And Shakespeare. I used to hate Shakespeare, because the teachers would park us in front of the webcam terminals, turn on the Shakespeare lessons and leave the building. But then, somehow, they showed us Macbeth, a play which actually MEANS something to us. Grown-ups don't understand that (or they wouldn't be teaching it) but Macbeth is the true authentic story of my generation. This is Macbeth's world, and us teenagers just live in it. Dig this: those "Three Weird Sisters", who mysteriously know everything? They can foretell anything, instantly, like Google? Plus, the witches make it all sound really great - only, in real life, it totally sucks? Well, those "Three Weird Sisters" are the "Internet of Things", they're "Ubiquitous Computation", they're "Ambient Findability". The truth is written all over the page (or the screen - my school can't afford to give us any "pages"). Just read that awesome part where they're boiling pseudocode in their witch-cauldron! They talk like web designers! "The words of the prophet have vanished from the subway walls"

    Macbeth stumbles around seeing ghosts and virtual-reality daggers. That sure makes sense. Every day of my life, I see people with cellphones yelling eerie gibberish in public. The world of Macbeth is totally haunted and paranoid! You can't get one minute's privacy, even inside your own bed!

    So, I did my class report about Macbeth, and every kid in my English class instantly agreed with me. I'm not the most popular guy in school, but they started CHEERING me. And Debbie, this wacky Goth chick in my class who identifies with Lady Macbeth... After my class report, Debbie sleep-walked out of the classroom and pretended to hang herself! Of cour
  • by Billosaur ( 927319 ) * <wgrother@nOSPaM.optonline.net> on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:10AM (#16145643) Journal
    Interesting articles but I have a very basic question: Where do we get the social stigma associated with "meeting someone online"?

    The Media. Let's face it: for as many positive stories you will find about the power of the Internet, you will find 5 times as many stories about things wrong with the Internet (phishing, privacy issues, child molesters, social repression, odd personal behavior, pornography, data loss, etc.). So "meeting someone online" carries the connotation that anyone you meet through some online medium must be tainted, somehow crazed or weird or just odd. When in fact, the subset of humanity we put in those categories is probably no greater on the Internet than it is in the global population.

    Social networking is just an enhancement of your neighborhood, with global reach. And just like their may be "weirdoes" on your block you know nothing of, the same can be said of the Internet.

  • by jizziknight ( 976750 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:11AM (#16145654)
    The problem I see with meeting someone online is that you're not quite sure if they are who they say they are. People make stuff up online to seem nicer/cooler/stronger/1337/whatever. Just look at how people show off their e-peens on /.. People also tend to just have different personalities or personas online. For instance, one of my friends (a male) is almost always female online. In games, on websites, everything.

    I see these as potentially huge problems because what if that cute 12 year old girl you met last night is really 35 year old fat bald Russian? Or even worse, a police officer?

    Jokes and sarcasm aside, my point remains.
  • by tont0r ( 868535 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:12AM (#16145656)
    Anything that has to do with 'online' and a people playing/working together has been for the most part sucessful.

    Basic technology is a good example. At first it was the pagers that allowed you to know when someone wanted to talk to you. And when you friend got a page it was 'I NEED A PHONE! QUICK! SOMEONE NEEDS TO GET AHOLD OF ME!'. Then cellphones came along and now you can talk to anyone from anywhere. Now a days, its hard to find someone who doesnt have a cell phone. Everyone wants to be connected to everyone else.

    Its also hard to find someone who doesnt have AIM/MSN/GTALK(or gchat? i forget)/irc/any other social thing to get ahold of them.

    MMO's have taken off like crazy. And ever since quake1 came out, you were a fool not to include multiplayer.

    No one likes being by themselves. They like companionship. They like someone else being there with them.
  • by robvs68 ( 560549 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:12AM (#16145660)
    The social stigma is somewhat warranted. True, there is nothing wrong with meeting someone online, but many of these people fail to realize that they truely don't know someone if they've only communicated via text or voice. Half of human communication is visual...
  • by eln ( 21727 ) * on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:13AM (#16145664)
    I think it has to do with the role that computers have traditionally played in our lives. Traditionally, the "normal" people spend their leisure time going out and hanging out with their friends, while the pimply faced nerds sit at home all day and night on their computers chatting online.

    As the Internet has become more mainstream, the stigma of meeting people online has faded significantly. These days, it's more of a curiosity than something that's looked down on. Although, meeting people on dating sites still has the same stigma (for now) as meeting people through the newspaper personal ads. But I think that's because many people consider those types of sites (or ads) as a last-ditch act of desperation for people who haven't been able to get a date any other way.
  • by milgr ( 726027 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:15AM (#16145671)
    The stigma of meeting people online comes from the few nut cases and preditors out there. On the Net, it is difficult to tell anything about the entities with whom you communicate. Is the entity who he says s/he is, is it really a bot, a 13-year old boy pretending to be a 25 year old girl, a sexual preditor pretending to be a 16 year old boy?

    That being said, I do know people who have developed long term real-life relationships with people they met on the Net. My sister met the man whom whe married on Bitnet. When they met, she made sure it was in a public location.
  • Anachronism, FUD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sielwolf ( 246764 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:21AM (#16145710) Homepage Journal
    What kind of responsibility are they ducking?

    Summer 2006 finds the world enmeshed in multiple wars and genocidal campaigns. It finds the world incapable of calling a halt to environmental destruction. Yet, with all of this, people seem above all to be fascinated by novel technologies. On college campuses there is less interest in asking questions about the state of the world than in refining one's presence on Facebook or MySpace. Technology pundits may talk in glowing terms about new forms of social life, but the jury is out on whether virtual self-expression will translate into collective action.

    Ok, that's bullshit. First off it is not true: look at the rise of Netroots (in politics, in activism, in terrorism) and all of that sort of action that disproves her very own observation. People are using online communities to get involved (for good or ill). Of course if you narrow your focus down like she does to just Facebook and Myspace (two sites designed for fulltime student aged demographics) *shock* people are just using them for social networking.

    Second, her statement has the implication that in the great golden times before Teh Intarnetz that people where autonomous self-actualized ubermensch that got involved all the time with important social issues and where immune to peer pressure. That's pure BS. For all the supposed young folk getting active in the 60's, a good part of them took getting active to mean as a way to pick up chicks. Joni Mitchell talked about how all the talk of free love was just a scam. That's no different than it is now. Your average college kid is thinking of two things on a Thursday night: how to get drunk and how to get laid. That hasn't changed in forty years. And the author ignores the fact that the US population was mostly positive about Vietnam and it took the draft for most Americans to finally have a stake and for the tide to turn against that war. It wasn't due to folks now caving to instant peer pressure. The term Silent Majority was coined in that very era.

    This article has all the makings of Media Studies masturbation: it has no social, historical, psychological or political context. It just has posed hypothetical examples and a lot of incestuous jargon. It does not approach it's own biases with skepticism or try to study the issue from an antithetical perspective (e.g. "Maybe social networking has no effect"). Colbert would call this East Coast Ivy League crap. And this is exactly the sort of thing you could break out in a party when trying to siddle up to some young filly. "Girl, we're so alone in this darkness... here, put your head in my lap."
  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:29AM (#16145760)
    I think the newness of it is a big chunk of it, but a keyboard, mouse and screen just aren't all that social. I also imagine another big chunk of it is that people believe in things like 'love at first sight' and whatnot, and the sterility of a network terminal is offensive to those notions. The fact that there is actual chemistry going on when you interact with people in real life might also have something to do with it.
  • by anagama ( 611277 ) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:29AM (#16145763) Homepage
    People put on faces in real life as well in any number of ways. Some people like to appear richer than they are. Some people present a happy face on a sad/angry family life. Some people seem friendly while only out for themselves.
  • Wow. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:30AM (#16145767)
    The Internet is often used as a last resort for finding a partner. It's where desperate people go, when even classified ads in newspapers have failed to find them a match. Sure, there are some relationships that started over the Internet, and worked out very well. But of all the ones I am aware of, they have all ended in abysmal failures.

    I have one cousin who has been in several such relationships. She is, to put it nicely, fat and ugly. It's no wonder that she hasn't found a date via her everyday interaction with people. So she has resorted to going online, and it has allowed her to find men. But the one's she's found, they've basically been scum. One was just a fat person fetishist who wanted nothing more than to anally fuck her. One of the other guys lied about his age four times over before she dumped him. Another one had two other relationships going at the same time, and my cousin found out after a few months of them going "steady".

    Bars or other gatherings tend to be viable meeting places for socially-acceptable and socially-adept individuals. People who lack such skills often resort to newspaper classified ads. When even those are complete failures, such people turn to the Internet. But since the cream of the crop have already been paired off between bars and classified ads, only the "worst" people for Internet dating. Because of that, the relationships often fail to work, if they're not outright disasters. That's why Internet dating has such an awful stigma.
    Congratulations, that is the most shallow post I have ever read on Slashdot. You, sir, make baby Jesus cry.

    I heavily suspect you are not in a relationship and will have difficulty maintaining one.
  • by shaneh0 ( 624603 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:34AM (#16145793)
    As someone mentioned, this stigma comes from the undesirables online that we've all heard about. As is typical, we ignore the 95% of good moral people and focus on the 5% of scammers, predators, degenerates and slashdot readers.

    I think this is further reinforced because many people who would be totally normal if you met them in the elevator of your building or in line at starbucks, when online, show their slimy underbelly. Look at all the AOL searches that were posted.

    I guess this is because the internet is a strange hybrid of personal privacy & exclusion and society and interpersonal relationships. The normal rules of society don't apply.

    The stigma, though, is no different then meeting someone in a bar. Especially women. If she calls her mom and says "I met this great guy in the bar" there's stigma there. Not as much as there used to be, maybe, but it's still there. And for largely the same reason. Some degenerates, normal rules don't apply, etc.

  • by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:46AM (#16145879) Journal
    soulless internet replacing good ol' natural hobbies.
    In your zeal to dismiss the story, you missed the point. It's not about the Internet "replacing" natural hobbies, it's about the ubiquitous and automated surveillance enabled by pervasive networking (not really what you're thinking of as "the Internet") destroying natural hobbies.

    My personal phrase for it is inhuman justice [jerf.org]. I wrote that at least four years ago and it hasn't gotten any less true. Bruce here applies it particularly to teenagers, but you could take Bruce's implicit universe and write an equally angsty story about any number of adults.
  • by jizziknight ( 976750 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:54AM (#16145957)
    True, but that sort of thing is much easier to do and much easier to get away with online, especially when you can pretend to be someone completely different. In person, it's much more difficult, since your bodly language will often give away your false "face". It's not that you can do these sorts of things online, it's how easy it is to do them when compared to meeting someone in person.
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @11:06AM (#16146088)
    Face it, the 'net is a series of tubes for most people. It's something where you type something in IE and you get a page that shows you some flashy graphics, and that's pretty much it. What other information people have, they have from the media hype around things that, allegedly or really, happened to someone who happened to "be in the net".

    Mix that with xenophobia and the fact that the "other one" can be anywhere from Dallas to Dnjepropetrowsk and people will be unable to even grasp the basic concept. It's simply "too big". Which, again, is a good source for more fear.

    Then the usual "think of the children" bullcrap comes into play. While you can make sure that you live in a "good neighborhood", there is no such thing online. Your neighborhood is the planet. And again the perceived anonymity that makes people less inhibited to expose themselves, and post information about themselves online that they wouldn't even willingly admit to in a census.

    All that combined and you know where the "bad internet" comes from.
  • Re:Had a feeling (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jesuscyborg ( 903402 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @11:26AM (#16146266)
    and the future employer googling your name
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @11:52AM (#16146486)
    People tossing all sorts of revealing information up on these sites is not too surprising. It's the ultimate platform for exhibitionism and validation: toss up photos, "clever" profiles, and personal anecdotes and receive instant gratification from friends and strangers. If people respond negatively, its simply enough to pull down the photo/profile/story and delete the negative comments.. clean the slate.

    A big part of socialization is about receiving a self-esteem boost and these sites provide an easy, relatively risk-free way of doing so.

"Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company." -- Mark Twain