Is a Social Crash Coming

Internet Time

Social networks push human interaction to the utmost limits. In a comment I left at Julien Smith’s blog, I talked about how time and friendship are being distorted by the Internet. I want to elaborate on the ideas, and also talk about the math.

Internet Time and Interactions

In the old days, we’d see friends when we saw them. We’d write or call now and again as well. The frequency of touch was far less often than today. With social tools, we have far more opportunity for frequency of touch, and it’s amplified by the fact that a lot of that touch is broadcast-style. Let me explain.

Old days: I’d see you at a family event. We’d talk. I’d send a letter or call you some time after that. We’d not see each other for months.
New days: I post something on Facebook or Twitter. You see it. I don’t say something directly TO you, but you remember that I’m still out there. You realize that it’s been a while since we talked directly.

The difference in these two interactions is in how the unintentional brushing past of my digital self stirs up the realization that we haven’t connected directly lately. It’s a reminder. It’s a statement that we haven’t had meaningful contact of a one-to-one sense in a while.

In thinking about this, I started doing some math. It really sheds some light on the complexities of our new digital lives.

Human Math

  • If I talk to 100 people on twitter for 6 minutes each, that’s 10 hours.

  • If I respond personally to 120 of the 600 or so emails and contacts I get a day, that’s 2 hours.
  • If I call 10 people for six minutes each to “catch up,” that’s another hour.

100 small Twitter conversations.
120 emails.
10 phone calls.

13 hours.

That’s not work. That’s not necessarily business (though touch and networking aids business). That’s just contact.

13 hours a day on just that.

And that’s just 100 or so people. That’s not the 146,000 Twitter followers, the 58,000 RSS subscribers, the 11,000 LinkedIn connections, the 4550 Facebook friends, that I have right now.

That’s 100 or so people.

Is a Social Crash Coming?

We’re going to have to start contenting ourselves with more “ambient connectivity.” I think that lots of us already do understand and accept this. I believe that the frequency of touch requirements of the hyperconnected are much lower than the average human out there.

But that sure raises an issue, doesn’t it?

In a world where the hyperconnected accept and understand “ambient connectivity,” but where the rest of our connections and friends from the “real world” don’t, what will that do to relationships of all kinds? How will that translate?

Is there a much more painful crash before us? A social crash?

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