We Need Community
In the gripping “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital,” Robert D. Putnam wrote one of the most compelling scholarly articles of the ’90s. In the article (and the book that followed), Putnam described how we have abandoned the idea of “Community” — and we are all suffering because of it. As Putnam’s BowlingAlone website states even today, among a host of other benefits that are found in community, even so much as joining and participating in one group cuts in half your odds of dying next year.
But We Are Progressively Losing It
So we need Community, but Putnam also notes the many ways in which community is fading, as his website also notes some of the signs of declining social capital. According to Putnam, over the last 25 years we have seen:
- Attending Club Meetings — 58% drop
- Family dinners — 43% drop
- Having friends over — 35% drop
We need community, but we were sadly dropping the activities that unified us — even before the Internet and the Kardashians arose to distract us.
And Social Media Doesn’t Fill the Gap — We Need Friends, not “Friend Requests”
But surely: “We’re connected like never before. I have 5,000 Facebook friends!” If only it were that easy. Social media like Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat may link us, but these are not the ties that bind. Facebook is presented as the villain the the Salon article Facebook is Annihilating Your Self Esteem, but that’s a harsher review than I’d place on social media.
The more subtle problem is that social media, while purporting to present us (individually) to the world, instead leads us to present an idealized version of ourselves. Every picture is perfect, every party is scintillating … problem is, a) nobody’s life is as perfect as it’s presented, and b) we are often defined as people, not by our best moments shown publicly, but by our worst moments known privately.
We Need Connection, Not Surveillance
I’m not ready to give up on social media as a potential solution yet, but there’s another problem with today’s prevailing social media; and this problem really is pernicious. When your are online, you are engaging in a commercial transaction — somebody is benefitting economically from your being there. If you can’t identify cui bono –– who benefits, or what the “product” is then YOU are the product! Social media sites provide entertainment to you while gathering data on you, and they make their money by selling this “Surveillance Marketing” to people who can benefit from knowing more about you. Surveillance buyers may generally to try to sell you things, but if enough data is gathered, who really knows what communities or purposes will find value in it? Uncanny Valley is bad, but Big Brother is worse.
And So, Introducing “Social Media for Shy People”
The goal behind SMFSP™ is to provide connectivity in a new form of social media. Our goal is not to connect you with the whole world; our goal is to connect you in the world you know, face to face, but better! Our networks are local (not global), private (you own all the data, which can only be used or revealed as you wish) not public or commercial, and blockchained. Blockchain is a key addition to the media; the data is yours alone, and additions or subtractions or presentations of that data are as private and controlled as transactions on your bank account should be.
This is connection, but not the extroverted form of connection that is all that social media today offers. Our offering is introverted — you only present what you want, with the transparency you want, to the people you want. We offer a “handshake at the fence” — supported electronically.
Our goal is not to replace hugs and handshakes with the people you care about — it’s to enable more of them!