The "Hive Mind" + 9 Other Ways Social Media Has Changed Us For Good


The other day my kid came back from a camping trip and said it was fun, but "a little too much" and she needed a break.

The problem was that her friends apparently don't believe in the concept of alone time.

I knew this was going to happen because we are basically a quiet, creative bunch and her friends tend to be Libras who want to interact nonstop. So the strategy was to just say, 

"I need to take a little space" 

...and then take it without apologies.

Didn't work. As she put it,

"If you don't have friends all around you every minute, you're considered a loser."

So apparently it's not just a Libra thing. Kids nowadays are connected ALL THE TIME.

We watched a show on ABC Family last night called "Cyberbullies," which was about online bullying but in the larger context that kids are so constantly with their friends, online and off, that it is actually odd-seeming when they are alone. 

I was thinking about "alone time" this weekend as I took a break from the frequent (perhaps constant) blogging, tweeting, Quora-ing, LinkedIn-ing, and GovLooping I do. I had literally three different projects to take care of and there was no way that a blog was going to fit in with all the responsibilities going on.

It was a little odd to be off the grid, but also a little nice. I wasn't used to it.

I realized that in becoming so engaged with social media, I had joined the Borg (from "Star Trek") or perhaps "The Matrix." That in a way, part of me lives in a virtual world - and I feel odd when I don't visit there on a regular basis.

Believe it or not, I even missed the comments on my Facebook vs. Google+ blog. (My favorites: "Anyone with a Ph.D. is an idiot" and "Can you believe this drivel?" Classic!) It was nice to know that somebody gave enough of a damn to take time out of their busy schedule and read my stuff. 

Another interesting moment occurred when I had lunch with my friends last Friday and we blah blahed about work and stuff. During the conversation I mentioned that I had blogged my bad feedback at work and it was a whole hullaballoo afterward with debates among the family as to whether I had completely lost my brains or was completely in control, a master of spin (neither believe me...just ordinary.) Just a couple of days later I read another blog by someone related to me where she talked about dating and a really bad encounter with an ex. I realized, reading that (she is much younger than me), that my blogs are actually TAME compared to what the next generation is writing.

So here are the 10 ways social media has changed us, in my view. (Also, and this has nothing to do with anything, "Horrible Bosses" is a great movie and you really have to see it.)

Here goes:

1. As a society we are mentally connected with one another despite not knowing each other or having permanent social ties. We process information collectively like an amorphous "hive" - crowdsourcing even when we don't think about it.

2. Individualism is acceptable today, but only if it is packaged, productized, and brought back to the collective to be consumed in some way. "Going off on your own" without sharing what you learn is not seen as normal.

3. Emotional intelligence is vastly more important than technical skill and people who can't share their feelings appropriately are suspect.

4. Direct, honest, frank comments are to be expected, but it is socially unacceptable to be rude or stalker-ish...the system corrects itself.

5. Plain talk is credible and jargon gets you booted out of the conversation before you even get to the second sentence.

6. We are willing to trust and "friend" anybody, but if that person shows ill intentions or bad motives, we remove them from the conversation quickly, again to keep the system somewhat "pure."

7. People are expected today to be empowered and resourceful, but also to work in groups to achieve big goals - the individual change agent is more likely to be seen as a dictator than a visionary.

8. It is almost inexcusable to fail to participate in the conversation in some way - doesn't have to be a blog, can be Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter or something else, but you have to bring something unique to the table and share it. Or you're seen as somehow hiding something.

9. We are becoming an information society where it is expected that you will give away information at no charge. Thus the profit opportunity is to be the trusted source of analysis of that information - a knower of things who understands what they mean - who only shares this analysis with some people.

10. We are rapidly becoming a society beyond money, although we don't see it yet. It is about giving of ourselves to others for the greater good, not taking from others to advance oneself. There are people pioneering the art of giving, the results of whose work we don't really see on a massive scale yet. But if we can just hold on and reinforce their efforts, there will be a time when we regulate ourselves to remove social disorder and ensure that everyone has what they need to survive.

It is an amazing time we live in that is for sure. But being essentially an introvert, I still think we do need alone time regularly. We can't absorb ourselves completely into the collective, for then we will lose our freedom and distinctiveness. And given the crazy world we live in nowadays, it's more important than ever to be able to think for yourself.

Have a good day everyone - and good luck!


I couldn't resist that photo - it's Monday for cripes' sake! Image source here.