Monday, 6 June 2011

What the web generation wants from Social Network

chaosMonster (The Mind of Bob 2.0): The spirit of Acampada Puerta del Sol
"The spirit of Acampada Puerta del Sol Photo By Gail Orenstein for the web 3.0 laB/CLIMA/MADRID Photo By Gail Orenstein for the web 3.0" a young woman dances in the rain during Madrid's acampada protests, which many have called a Social Media revolution.


Young people today most want connection and engagement with other people. Using the Internet to substitute real engagement for managed engagement that makes money for investors is not a long term viable solution. This model, used by Facebook, only promotes the very issues of isolation and cynicism that younger people hope to escape. Rather people themselves are making more and more strategic uses of the Internet to escape the very social conditions which created it. Young people in Europe are starting to use the web to escape much of the isolation the web in part helped to create.

The observation that many of the political protests of 2011 form Bahrain to Egypt and Spain are enabled by Social Media is certainly a cliche. As with most good cliches it contains a solid bit of truth. Without the ability to organize in an agile way on the web the protests movement which has set the Arab world on fire and are now spreading to Europe would have likely never start. But like all cliches it is essentially a lie.

#SpanishRevolution, Algo realmente gozoso (english) from grin on Vimeo.

The Jasmine Spring and summer uses Social Media, but its aspirations and motivations are not only isolated from the Internet they are essentially hostile to the economic and social forces which have given created the current concept of cyberspace.

The world of electronic mediated communication and virtual communities, which we call cyberspace, is sort of the hell of our Late Capitalist society. People have more and more turned to sites like Facebook and Twitter to connect to people because they feel they lack direct connections in their day to day life. People are seeking to find a lost community. So the size of these communities are more a reflection of our social weakness than our technical excellence.

High level of usage of mobile connections to the Internet are generally more due to boredom than anything interesting on the world. The smartphone provides us the tool for killing boredom on demand anywhere in the world. But it does so by isolating us further in to our own fantasy worlds.

This may seem too negative. But we doubt anyone can really question that it contains some truth.

But like all generalizations it false. Humans are at their DNA tool using animals. Another truism is that tools are not by themselves good or bad. The Internet can be made to productive uses. There is no question that in the Arab world the Internet has been an essential tool bypassing state censorship. The Internet is an essential tool is organizing protests, sharing information and going beyond censorship.

In Europe the struggle is a bit different than in the Middle East. In th Middle East the need was for basic Civil Society and the need to put Civil Society in control over the State. In Europe the issue is a bit different. Civil Society, especially community and everyday like in the West has been more and more dominated by consumerism. As consumerism has evolved the demands of societies that exist only for their markets have become more and more trying. In nations like Spain and Greece, which have a strong sense of community and family, the conversion to a society of isolated individual consumers has been felt more dramatically. The Internet is being used by the camping movement to organize "escapes" from this. People are using Social Networking tools to find people so as to meet in the real world. The focus is all on the real world, and the social network tools themselves move from front and center to the margins.

This is not good news for most social media marketing firms I have meet. In the English speaking world companies that work with the new mobile Internet are still trapped in their concepts of branding and sales.

The reality is a new kind of demand is emerging. Younger people do not want things anymore, they have grown up in a flood things. Things are just taken for granted. What they really crave is people, is community.

Facebook and Twitter along with online dating sites have clicked in to this need by the new consumers. But they face a danger that the consumers will ultimately grow out of the need for social networking tools. There is also a high likelihood that just as the campers are building their own small cities, they will also build the next generation of social network sites as open sourced community tools.

We certainly see more of the spirit of Linux and Wikipedia in the Jasmine Spring than Twitter and Facebook.

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