People are social beings and it is only natural to want to belong to a network of people to facilitate being social.
However the network you join must be natural in order to facilitate meaningful interpersonal interaction. Meaningful interaction with another person or group of people is the definition of being social and this is where Social Media fails us.
What’s the magic number?
In the 1990’s British Anthropologist Robin Dunbar first proposed a maximum group size of 150 people for a person to maintain stable interpersonal relationships with each of them. Dunbar’s number feels real when it comes to actually being social don’t you think? How many people would you share your wedding photos with? For most of us I bet 150 is bang-on the maximum.
When you join Facebook to be social you join a network of over 2 billion people! This is 2 billion more people than natural and the Cloud is to blame. The Cloud has fundamentally shifted the way we interact with each other online. Gone are the days when each of us had a direct Peer to Peer connection to the Internet and we had to go around looking for friends to be social with.
Tim Berners Lee’s World Wide Web (WWW) enabled Facebook, Google and Amazon to take control of the way we all interact by creating large private networks or Clouds. Social Media companies allow us to become members of their private Clouds in return for free access to our own personal data and conversations through the timeline and news feeds.
If being truly social has a limit of 150 people, what value do the other 2 billion people in your Facebook network have? Zero, unless you are there to make money and even then Social Media is bad for you.
The bigger the network the bigger the problem
Social Media is not a natural place to be social it is more like a television network. Just like the days before Netflix, watching Facebook is like watching TV. You must sift through all the crap programming the network, in this case Facebook, makes, including all the commercials, to get to the content you want.
Joining a big network like Facebook is a big responsibility and if you do not take it seriously there are big problems. Make a mistake like sending out an inappropriate picture over a natural network and 150 friends and family may think you are a little weird but you will recover.
Posting an inappropriate picture on Facebook can lead to getting fired from your job or in extreme cases to suicide. No one should be fired or forced into suicide for being social but unfortunately it happens every day.
Social media is not so social anymore
Social Media networks are unnaturally large; they are run by people with questionable ethics, and their shareholders are ad-based revenue addicts. They don’t care who gets harmed on their road to growth as long as they continue to make money.
It is time to remove ‘Social’ when discussing Facebook and Google and call them what they are, media companies. To be truly social, Social Media should empower each of us to be as social as we want with 5 users or 500 users. Who to add to my network and what content to view, including Advertising, should be my decision and mine alone.