Monday, June 01, 2009

The Yin and Yang of Social Media

I am:
1) Mentally Unstable (Read: Spiritually demanding)
2) Social Media Addict (Read: Passionate)


1)Nothing is ever separate
2) Everything is always interlinked

I wanted to join down some brief thoughts I had in relation to social media overload and mental illness. Perhaps if you look hard enough, there is a relationship, however precarious it might be. After all, Internet addiction is now seen as a clincial disorder. The Ying and Yang of Social Media.

Information Overload:
Does an incessant access of Ideas lead to Cognitive Quadriplegia?
Heavy social media users have access to an unprecendented amount of information. Are we processing it sufficiently? Are we cognitively digesting it? Information Indigestion perhaps? If the flow of information is incessant, is there is a danger of cognitive quadriplegia? Mixed messages? Is this information makes us smarter, more intelligene? Or if the flow is too fast, are we losing important insights through the leaks, metaphorically speaking? How do we manage this information flow to utilise effectively - what is relevant and what is not? Intuition, some say. Perhaps this is the revolution of right-brain thinking as Dan Pink has spoken of. Traditionally, information and knowledge is seen as the zenith of human progress. But is information everything? Then again, on the other hand, when exploring the social media landscape, you come across new sources of information, thereby expanding your cognitive understanding of 'realities'?

We all know the age old saying: 'its not what you know, its who you know'. Social media puts this mantra on its head. We - social media users - understand this. But finding the who is not longer the problem. And especially when you are someone like me, who loves people, how do you decide who you want to meet and who you don't? How do you intuitively decide who you want to interact with when you can interact with everyone? It is both exiciting and terrifying all at once. The Dunbar number states that we can only cognitively maintain 'healthy relationships' with 150 max. Logically, it seems correct - we only have so many hours per week, so we can only allocate a certain amount of time to people. Yet when it is psychologically reinforced that 'people are everything', how do we know when you stop? Are we damaging those meaningful relationships in pursue of new ones that come so easier now? Are we just counting our twitter followers all the time, rather than building quality relationships with 50 or so people?

A warped reality
When your media consumption is extremely specific and catered towards your interests, is this changing your reality? Is it a balanced diet? Then again, look at the alternative: Murdoch's media. Yes, I want to read the Australian for the rest of my life. In this situations, I like to extrapolate - imagine in 50 years, when everyone is a social media user, what then? Will we just have highly segmented realties everywhere? If the football freak, can watch and read user-generated football news 24/7, he will want to just talk with other football heads? Traditionally, the model was this "Location - Friendships Groups - Interests"
Now, its: "Interests - Friendships Groups - Location (Optional)"
If our interests form the base of relationships, where do the location specific relationships stand? Do we stop socialising with location-specific people, when we all have access to interest-specific people? Is this good or bad for our reality I am not sure?

Note: This is just a braindump. I do not agree with everything I have written - I do not think the pathological model works in all cases. I need to explore this concept further. Information overload management is, and willl continue, to become a pressing issue in the years ahead. Better that we start thinking about now than later.

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