Herman Finkers, a famous Dutch comedian once mentioned (and I will translate it) “…ondoenlijk is ook doenlijk, want onweer is ook weer.” (Which means; The impossible is possible because no weather is also weather – which sounds weird, but a thunderstorm is actually called in Dutch ‘No Weather’ (literally translated)).
It is the old Yin-Yan concept, one thing can only exists because of the existence of the opposite. Nice and heavy on the Tuesday morning, isn’t it? And that without coffee at 6am. The reason why I come up with this is simple, my love-hate relationship with social networking sites. I absolutely see the use of them, but I don’t like them. Well, some of them I do, I have mentioned that before. Hey, I even have to thank my whole current life to the existence of networking sites, otherwise I would not even have met my wife and live the life I know now for the last 10 years.
But, there is a whole other side about social networking sites that I don’t like. And that is, being anti-social. I use social network sites. You can find me at facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pzuidema or at Twitter, with @pwzuidema, ModelMayhem at http://www.modelmayhem.com/cantanopy and LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/pzuidema . But to say that I am on there a lot to chat, keep up the contacts etc… no, not really. But I do use them, it is a good way to manage your networks.
But what I think is lacking, and which is responsibility of the websites themselves, is the warning for self-inflicted damage to a person. When you are actually physically in the presence of friends, or people at least, stupid or dumb behavior is immediately condemned in different ways, socially. Those people will let you know that your behavior is not tolerated. That physical presence has a certain deeply personal impact which will, in most cases, give a correctional learning experience.
With the anonymity on a social network site, nobody cares. If someone behaves badly, you ignore him or her, or you can tell that person… but it will not really have any impact at all. It just does not provide any learning experience in social behavior. The only thing we can learn from it is the lower threshold of anti-social behavior when the anonymity increases, or the physical distance increases.
A recent study has shown that people active on a social networking site like Facebook tend to have a better off-line social life. I really am interested in how people managed to find this out. But, which was what I mentioned before, I do see the value of a social networking site as a networking management tool. So, to keep contact with friends, see what is happening around me.
Look, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying the more anti-social people should not be on the social networking sites. It brings a lot of people closer together. But I think it would be a good thing for a site like Facebook to start adding some behavioral tools. Simple but effective tools that can condemn certain behavior without the threatening with ‘taking the account offline’. Some ways you can show you did not like someone’s behavior, or maybe a usage history. Something that mimics the social behavior tools in real life too. It’s just an idea…