The New Social Dynamic

In June of this year, leading technological blog TechCrunch released their analysis of the true value of social networking websites. Based on their model, the entire social networking industry is worth around $27.1 billion, with Facebook accounting for around 37%, or $10 billion. However, despite this seemingly thriving activity, it appears as though many peoples’ attitudes towards social networking are changing.

Whenever a new technology becomes available for the first time, many people tend to use it indiscriminately. In the 1980’s, with the advent of computer graphics, many television shows and films were saturated with basic CGI images as designers wanted to show off what their new instruments could do. This was often done with little regard for aesthetics or elegance; the use of the technology itself, in a way, becomes more important than the products that are created with it. However, as the initial novelty dies down, its use becomes more sophisticated and refined. Arguably, the same can be said for social networking.

In 2009, MySpace is steadily declining and Facebook has taken its place as the world’s most popular social network, boasting a fanbase of over 250 million people. Given that for many, social networking is an established and useful method of communication and with other ‘Web 2.0’ applications such as Twitter and WebEx becoming more popular, a new set of unwritten ‘etiquette’ rules are being established. Although the volume of use shows little sign of abating, given that a billion new photos are uploaded to Facebook every month, people are now more selective about where and when is appropriate to use social networking services.

New York is showing strong signs of anti-social networking sentiment; many of its more exclusive venues have placed bans on social networking when on their premises. Indeed, Milk and Honey, an enigmatic bar on the Lower East Side, reserves most of it tables for customers who pay to be a member, and also agree to anti-social networking restrictions. The bar takes this policy so seriously that new members must sign a contract agreeing that they will not blog, take photos or even tweet about the bar at all.

Surprisingly, such restrictions do not put off those who wish to attend – in many cases the ability to ‘switch off’ – whether they want to or not – is quite a liberating experience. Michael Malice, an American writer and blogger, is a co-host of Protocols, a bi-weekly, invite-only soiree which specifically states that all conversations are ‘off the record’.

In an article for the New York Times, Malice stated, “We are fighting against this whole idea that everything people do has to be constantly chronicled. People think that every thought they have, every experience – if it is not captured it is lost.”

Such ‘terms and conditions’ come at a time where the Prohibition-era speakeasy is seeing a resurgence, again particularly in New York. Obviously alcohol is no longer illegal, but people are drawn to the secrecy and exclusivity of such establishments; tired of queuing for hours behind velvet ropes, the social elites are looking to the belle époque years for their new chic hangouts.

It is perhaps due to this new desire for exclusivity that the social-network etiquette has come about; constant blogging, photo-taking and tweeting about a supposedly secret location would be counter-productive, something that the proprietors know very well. Many bar owners recognise that many of their regulars wish to relax without being surrounded by camera flashes and their picture all over Facebook; so much so that some offenders have been contacted and told to remove the pictures in question or face being barred.

Social networking remains as strong as ever; media reports about the top sites peaking back in 2008 seem to be unfounded as they acquire more users who upload more content, as well as media-savvy businesses who use social networking as an effective marketing tool. It seems as though social networking hasn’t left the party, it’s just learned some table manners.

James

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One Response to “The New Social Dynamic”

  1. Immigrant Jakarta « Welcome To The Fold Says:

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