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Has Our Online Social Experience Improved Our Offline Lives?

Posted: June 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Chronic, Facebook, Love and Other Drugs, Michael Courtenay, Relationship Matters | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Has Our Online Social Experience Improved Our Offline Lives?

“I met my wife online, reconnected with old school friends, stay in touch with my family overseas and have a wide circle of close online friends. For those born in the internet age, this will be the norm. For those born before it, some will adapt, others will fail to adapt.” Jeremy Malcolm

There is little doubt that the social benefits of the internet far outweigh the negatives. Online tools like email and social networking sites offer “low friction” opportunities to create, enhance, and rediscover social ties that make a difference in people’s lives.

The internet lowers traditional communications constraints of cost, geography, and time; and it supports the type of open information sharing that brings people together. Electronic Social Networking is not a new concept at all. People have in one way or another been interacting with each other via some form of ‘social media’ since the 1950’s.

The modernisation of the telephone system in the 50’s and 60’s allowed millions of people to communicate quickly and cost effectively, what we see today has simply grown out of this technology. If we cast our memories back just a few short years – we may shudder when we recall –  faxes as a speedy way to communicate, internet with a ring-tone, email that strolled along slightly faster than faxes, but still less efficient than telephone.

Our digital worlds are now almost entirely linked, Facebook, Twitter, Email, Telephone all available on every digital device in our lives. Have Social Networking Sites improved our lives though?

I think if you look at the history of Electronic Social Networking, your conclusion has to be that anyone who claims to not get it must have been intentionally ignoring it, it’s been here since Telegraph and Morse Code, it’s been a slow steady grower ::::

The current explosion of FacebookTwitter and Linkdin would seem to be a very ‘now’ experience. Peering over the shoulder of his teenage daughter New York times Executive Editor Bill Keller says “Last week my wife and I told our 13-year-old daughter she could join Facebook. Within a few hours she had accumulated 171 friends, and I felt a little as if I had passed my child a pipe of crystal meth”. Keller is not alone in his fear of what may seem to many of us like an out of control funpark ride. Part of the problem comprehending Social Networking Sites is that we tend to do it from only our perspective. A Social Networking Sites experience for  a 17 year old is a vastly different experience than that of a 45 year old as Keller discovered. For most teens a world without Facebook doesn’t exist, it’s a world they’ve never known. For those of us who have watched this technology develop it’s been a process we’ve eased on into, two vastly different experiences.  Keller makes an interesting point saying “The most obvious drawback of social media is that they are aggressive distractions. Unlike the virtual fireplace or that nesting pair of red-tailed hawks we have been live-streaming on nytimes.com, Twitter is not just an ambient presence. It demands attention and response. It is the enemy of contemplation.”

Social Networking Sites have certainly expanded the absolute number of human social interactions, however if we are not precautious social media might actually enhance physical isolation. Each moment we utilize Social Networking Sites is potentially taking away real time contact, as with everything in our lives; a qualitative balance is called for. Cultural Anthropologist Grant McCracken points out that “Facebook means your contacts are always warm. You’re always in touch with them in a subtle yet meaningful way. This is communication with very little hard informational content, but lots of emotional and social content. Phatic communication doesn’t get much said, but it’s social effects are so powerful, it gets lots done” You may not have seen that co-worker from your last firm for a few years, your Facebook feed tells you what she’s been up to though. Your Tweets can inform business contacts that you’re “excited about the new job”  which subtly clues them in to the fact that you have changed workplaces, without any superfluous drama.

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project in it’s most recent survey ‘Social Networking Sites and Our Lives‘ asked people if they felt “that most people on Social Networking Sites can be trusted.” They found that the typical internet user is more than twice as likely as others to feel that people on SNS’s can be trusted. Further, they found that Facebook users are even more likely to be trusting. The survey explored people’s overall social networks and how use of these technologies is related to trust, tolerance, social support, and community and political engagement. The surprise finding of the survey was that a Facebook user who uses the site multiple times per day is 43% more likely than other internet users and more than three times as likely as non-internet users to feel that most people can be trusted. It is responses like this that have driven business squarely toward Social Networking Sites and the customer base these sites hold

Jeremy Malcolm has embraced online social networking as an empowering force in his life, this internet legal eagle lives and breaths internet and points out that his well balanced life is very much indebted to this modern form of socialization “I met my wife on a social networking site.  In fact, come to think of it, I met just about every girl I ever dated that way.  Five or ten years ago that would have seemed terribly sad, but now it’s no big deal. Today I spend most of my day, both at work and at home, communicating with people from around the world – including you, and this interview –  whom I may never meet in person.  It doesn’t make me feel disconnected from them.  On the contrary, I can move to another country, and be no further away from my friends and colleagues than I was before” Jeremy Malcolm is Coordinator at Civil Society Internet Governance Caucus, Project Coordinator at Consumers International, Developer at Debian ProjectBlogger – checkout Jeremy’s blog, ubercool –  Tweeter and Internet Legal Expert

I’m going to – barely – touch on internet dating sites, they are a rather large part of Online Social Media, actually hugeunfortunately I have an allergy to them. 5 years ago internet dating was big, it’s now massive. It’s also diverse. From dating a Prisoner to, well having an affair, internet dating sites have entrenched themselves into our online experience. They are the pointy end of  Social Networking Sites, where online life truly meets offline life.  Ashley Madison is all over the web at the moment and with a tag line like “Life’s Short, Have an Affair” it’s not newtonian to figure why! www.ashleymadison.com has over 9,700,000 users waiting for a clandestine hookup. A spokesperson for Ashley Madison said  “There are many single people on Ashley Madison that wish to meet attached people for various reasons. If you are single and wish to meet an attached person, you’re probably going to have to try a little harder. Single people don’t have as much to risk. We suggest that you remain patient and keep trying.” It’s a little hard to nail down a number – online population – on dating sites, estimates are in the hundreds of millions, perhaps the only Social Networking Sites that rival Facebook!?

“You have the world’s largest focus group, it’s a nice problem to have. People are talking about your brand, so let’s figure out how to listen to them properly. When companies say they don’t have time for all this, I tell them that’s like saying you don’t have time to listen to your customers. Would you ever say that? The answer is no. That’s when they begin to reallocate resources to handle the information.” Erik Qualman

Down to the business of Social Networking Sites, Social Media. Human Resource, Marketing and Public Relations Departments in a galaxy of corporations have embraced Social Networking Sites, many now almost completely reliant to online resources, 80% of the top 500 hundred corporations in the U.S.A utilise Social Networking Sites for recruitment, of those 80%,  93% use Linkedin.  In his book Socialnomics, Erik Qualman asks the question “Is Social Media a Fad?” Qualman reels of some eye opening statistics. ‘If Facebook where a country, it would be the 3rd largest, behind China and India, 50% of all internet traffic in the U.K. is Facebook, generation Y and Z consider email passe.’ Qualman claims that we don’t have a choice on whether we do social media in business, the question is how well we do it. Qualman’s mantra is “World of Mouth” a clever play on “Word of Mouth, the twist being that the whispers spread at a pace we’ve not seen before.

“Social Media isn’t a fad, it’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate” says Qualman who believes that in the business there are 4 steps that must be adhered for the succesfull use of Social Networking Sites “Those 4 steps are: listen, interact, react, and sell. A lot of companies make the mistake of just going to that fourth one, and trying to sell right away. That is analogous to if I walked into a potluck dinner with 40 people there that I’ve never met. If I immediately walk up and say, “Good to be here. I’m Erik Qualman. Here is my business card. Let me tell you why I’m great,” for the next 10 minutes. That is socially unacceptable, yet when we go online we sometimes forget these concepts that we know are socially unacceptable, and we start to sell right away. It doesn’t work. You have no chance for success if you don’t do the first 3 steps.”  says Qualman

Many who have had a chore binding to Social Networking Sites mistakenly describe it as ephemeral, as if it will soon be surpassed by the next big thing. Marketing via Social Networks Sites presents a new set of skill requirements to professionals. The use of overbearing – spamming – mass emails is more likely to do harm than produce results. Social Networking sites require subtly, interaction is the key feature of these sites, the potential for backlash is enormous. Social Networking Sites are back-and-forth communication forums, not broadcast media. Annoy or abuse people and they will tell the world, online and offline!

When I first heard the phrase – offline world – I thought it was a joke. An internet marketing friend who clearly spent to much of her life online., for whom apparently being ‘offline’ – the ‘real world’ to you and I – felt like a novelty! Many people now form and build relationships purely ‘online’ – and I know of several people who have hundreds, even thousands of Facebook ‘friends’

Our online experiences – just as in real life – are based hugely on perception. Social Networking Sites are a tool, a resource that if used well are capable of enhancing our social experiences. If we are grumpy old men offline, you can grant we will be grumpy old men online.  I’ve caught up with favorite old flames on Facebook, banned bad bunny boilers on Bebo and Tweet regularly with my estranged offspring. The point I think is that you need to want to be there – again, much like the real world . It would be far to simple to say that the youth rule this domain, after all, they’ve grown up with these online experiences. Surprisingly the largest growing demographic on SNS are 55 to 65 year old woman. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of point intelectualising online Social Networking, it is what you make of it, small talk, product launch pad or family catch-up, it surely has improved our offline lives. M★C Good Luck Out There!

Checkout The History of Electronic Social Networking Below

A Very Brief History of The Social Media

Social Media, Electronic – Social Networking and Online Social Networks are not new concepts at all. People have in one way or another interacting with each other via the ‘social media’ since the 1950’s. What has really happened in last decade is that there has been an explosion in Social Network Sites, with the likes of MySpace, Facebook, Twitter.

Let’s take a look at the evolution of Social Media:

The Phone-centric EraDial-up [1958 – 1995] The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) to serve users worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of millions of private, public, academic, business, and government networks, of local to global scope, that are linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless and optical networking technologies. The Internet carries a vast range ofinformation resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext documents of the World Wide Web (WWW) and the infrastructure to support electronic mail. Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA, later DARPA) in February 1958 was born to regain a technological leadfrom the USSR. ARPA created the Information Processing Technology Office (IPTO) to further the research of the Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) program, which had networked country-wide radar systems together for the first time. The IPTO’s purpose was to find ways to address the US military’s concern about survivability of their communications networks, and as a first step interconnect their computers at the Pentagon, Cheyenne Mountain, and Strategic Air Command headquarters (SAC). J. C. R. Licklider, a promoter of universal networking, was selected to head the IPTO. Licklider moved from the Psycho-Acoustic Laboratory at Harvard University to MIT in 1950, after becoming interested in information technology. At MIT, he served on a committee that established Lincoln Laboratory and worked on the SAGE project. In 1957 he became a Vice President at BBN, where he bought the first production PDP-1 computer and conducted the first public demonstration of time-sharing.

The Bulletin Board or BBS [1979- 1995]  A precursor to the public Bulletin Board System was Community Memory, started in August, 1973 in Berkeley, California, using hardwired terminals located in neighborhoods.The first public dial-up Bulletin Board System was developed by Ward Christensen. According to an early interview, while he was snowed in during the Great Blizzard of 1978 in Chicago, Christensen along with fellow hobbyist Randy Suess, began preliminary work on the Computerized Bulletin Board System, or CBBS. CBBS went online on February 16, 1978 in Chicago, Illinois. CBBS, which kept a count of callers, reportedly connected 253,301 callers before it was finally retired.

Commercial Web Services [1975 – Now] Bolt, Beranek & Newman (BBN), the private contractors for ARPANET, set out to create a separate commercial version after establishing “value added carriers” was legalized in the U.S.The network they established was called Telenet and began operation in 1975, installing free public dial-up access in cities throughout the U.S. Telenet was the first packet-switching network open to the general public.

The World Wide Web [199o – Now] In 1980, Tim Berners-Lee, an independent contractor at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Switzerland, built ENQUIRE, as a personal database of people and software models, but also as a way to play with hypertext; each new page of information in ENQUIRE had to be linked to an existing page.In 1984 Berners-Lee returned to CERN, and considered its problems of information presentation: physicists from around the world needed to share data, and with no common machines and no common presentation software. He wrote a proposal in March 1989 for “a large hypertext database with typed links”, but it generated little interest. His boss, Mike Sendall, encouraged Berners-Lee to begin implementing his system on a newly acquired NeXT workstation.He considered several names, including Information MeshThe Information Mine (turned down as it abbreviates to TIM, the WWW’s creator’s name) or Mine of Information (turned down because it abbreviates to MOI which is “Me” in French), but settled on World Wide Web. He found an enthusiastic collaborator in Robert Cailliau, who rewrote the proposal (published on November 12, 1990) and sought resources within CERN. Berners-Lee and Cailliau pitched their ideas to the European Conference on Hypertext Technology in September 1990, but found no vendors who could appreciate their vision of marrying hypertext with the Internet. MORE

Email [1939 – Now] 1939 New York World’s Fair IBM sent a letter of congratulations from San Francisco to New York on an IBM radio-type, calling it a high-speed substitute for mail service in the world of tomorrow.Teleprinters were used in Germany during World War II and use spread until by the late 1960s there was a worldwide Telex network which remained important until the late 1980s. The original email systems allowed communication only between users who logged into the same host or “mainframe”. This could be hundreds or even thousands of users within an organization. MIT first demonstrated the Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS) in 1961. It allowed multiple users to log into the IBM 7094 from remote dial-up terminals, and to store files online on disk. This new ability encouraged users to share information in new ways. Email started in 1965 as a way for multiple users of a time-sharing mainframe computer to communicate. Among the first systems to have such a facility were SDC’s Q32 and MIT’s 1965 CTSS MAIL, Larry Breed’s 1972 APL Mailbox (which was used by the 1976 Carter/Mondale presidential campaign), the original 1972 Unixmail program, IBM’s 1981 PROFS, and Digital Equipment Corporation’s 1982 ALL-IN-1. In the early 1980s, networked personal computers on LANs became increasingly important. Server-based systems similar to the earlier mainframe systems were developed. Again these systems initially allowed communication only between users logged into the same server infrastructure. Eventually these systems could also be linked between different organizations, as long as they ran the same email system and proprietary protocol. Examples include cc:Mail, Lantastic, WordPerfect Office, Microsoft Mail, Banyan VINES and Lotus Notes – with various vendors supplying gateway software to link these incompatible systems.

Instant Messengers [1966 – Now] Predates the Internet, first appearing on multi-user operating systems like CTSS and Multics in the mid-1960s. Initially, some of these systems were used as notification systems for services like printing, but quickly were used to facilitate communication with other users logged in to the same machine. As networks developed, the protocols spread with the networks. Some of these used apeer-to-peer protocol (e.g. talk, ntalk and ytalk), while others required peers to connect to a server (see talker and IRC). During the Bulletin board system (BBS) phenomenon that peaked during the 1980s, some systems incorporated chat features which were similar to instant messaging; Freelancin’ Roundtable was one prime example. The first dedicated online chat service was the CompuServe CB Simulator in 1980, created by CompuServe executive Alexander “Sandy” Trevor.

Pagers [1952 – Yesterday] This tool transformed the face of short messaging service. After being introduced in 1950s in the US, pagers were used as the most preferred telecommunication short messaging tool till the mobiles phones arrived in 90s. However, today pagers are used only for ‘critical messaging’ purposes.

Mobile Phones [1979 – Now] I know that you were waiting for this. The first generation mobile phones used to remind us the crude weapons of the early Stone Age. But now look at it. It became out external life support system. As they say, ‘take the world in your palms’, that’s the reality of mobile communication. Nowadays, it regularly impresses us with its looks and features. The Mobile Phone SMS Era During the evolution of short messaging service, the most critical discovery is perhaps the mobile SMS itself. Do I need to say anything more about it? I think the name says it all. None can deny that our habits and likings as mortal creatures changed due to SMS. It makes us feel complete.

Social Networking Websites [1997 – Now] Social networking sites like SixDegrees, FaceBook, and MySpace etc, got momentum gradually when people started to spend more time, than they used to spend at home talking to others.

Six Degrees: The first modern social networking site was launched in 1997. The site enables members to socialize by opening profiles in it. It used to be really popular and at one time it had millions member across the globe. The site was closed down in 2001


It’s also a popular social networking site that allows people to become friends from all over the world.

FaceBook: Currently the most popular social networking website among users. Initially FaceBook was introduced in limited areas in 2004 but later it was made open for all in 2006. It have more than 500 Million Users all around the world.

This is perhaps the fastest growing social networking site ever!

Twitter: After its advent in 2006, Twitter has made real-time updating a norm for all. You’ll get 140 Characters to share what you got!

Twitter gives its user a better platform to socialize. Today, everybody tweets every time.

YouTube: YouTube was launched in 2006 as the first major video sharing and hosting website. It properly categories videos and has options for publish ratings and comments for each uploaded video.

Believe me it’s incredibly popular and liked all around the globe. Blogging: This is the most modern method to express yourself. It’s the right way to move ahead. There are personal and professional bloggers who use various tools to write blog posts. This really works fast.

So moral of the story is, technology has changed the mode of social communication on many occasions with new discoveries. However, our thirst to stay connected will never be completely fulfilled. So we are still looking to invent new tools for better communication.

Apple iPhone changed it forever! Now networking started happening even out-of-home! But in this development – have humans started missing out on the personal interaction and networking?

Social Networking Stats

  • Over 50% of the world’s population is under 30-years-old
  • 96% of them have joined a social network
  • Facebook tops Google for weekly traffic in the U.S.
  • Social Media has overtaken porn as the #1 activity on the Web
  • 1 out of 8 couples married in the U.S. last year met via social media
  • Years to Reach 50 millions Users:  Radio (38 Years), TV (13 Years), Internet (4 Years), iPod (3 Years)…
  • Facebook added over 200 million users in less than a year
  • iPhone applications hit 1 billion in 9 months.
  • We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is how well we DO it.”
  • If Facebook were a country it would be the world’s 3rd largest ahead of the United States and only behind China and India
  • Yet, QQ and Renren dominate China
  • 2009 US Department of Education study revealed that on average, online students out performed those receiving face-to-face instruction
  • 80% of companies use social media for recruitment; % of these using LinkedIn 95%
  • The fastest growing segment on Facebook is 55-65 year-old females
  • Ashton Kutcher and Ellen Degeneres (combined) have more Twitter followers than the  populations of Ireland, Norway, or Panama.  Note I have adjusted the language here after someone pointed out the way it is phrased in the video was difficult to determine if it was combined.
  • 50% of the mobile Internet traffic in the UK is for Facebook…people update anywhere, anytime…imagine what that means for bad customer experiences?
  • Generation Y and Z consider e-mail passé – some universities have stopped distributing e-mail accounts
  • Instead they are distributing: eReaders + iPads + Tablets
  • What happens in Vegas stays on YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook…
  • The #2 largest search engine in the world is YouTube
  • While you watch this 100+ hours of video will be uploaded to YouTube
  • Wikipedia has over 15 million articles…studies show it’s more accurate than Encyclopedia Britannica…78% of these articles are non-English
  • There are over 200,000,000 Blogs
  • Because of the speed in which social media enables communication, word of mouth now becomes world of mouth
  • If you were paid a $1 for every time an article was posted on Wikipedia you would earn $1,712.32 per hour
  • 25% of search results for the World’s Top 20 largest brands are links to user-generated content
  • 34% of bloggers post opinions about products & brands
  • Do you like what they are saying about your brand? You better.
  • People care more about how their social graph ranks products and services  than how Google ranks them
  • 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations
  • Only 14% trust advertisements
  • Only 18% of traditional TV campaigns generate a positive ROI
  • 90% of people that can TiVo ads do
  • 24 of the 25 largest newspapers are experiencing record declines in circulation
  • 60 millions status updates happen on Facebook daily
  • We will non longer search for products and services, they will find us via social media
  • Social Media isn’t a fad, it’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate
  • Successful companies in social media act more like Dale Carnegie and less like Mad Men Listening first, selling second
  • The ROI of social media is that your business will still exist in 5 years
  • Bonus: comScore indicates that Russia has the most engage social media audience with visitors spending 6.6 hours and viewing 1,307 pages per visitor per month – Vkontakte.ru is the #1 social network

A huge thanks to all below:

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