The New Gnu Knew

10 02 2010

We knew it was inevitable. My colleagues and I at GNU MediaLab love all the new media at our disposal, but, like all things trying to find a place on this warp-speed techno-planet, it’t here today and gone tomorrow. It’s not only 5:00 somewhere, it’s already tomorrow somewhere.

So I wasn’t surprised one bit to read of what could be a nascent trend: the anti-social networking movement. Tired of the lack of F2F interaction, there are some who have tweeted their last tweet and booked their last face.

And, to add a pinch of irony, this revelation comes hot on the heels of Google’s announcement to add some Buzz to its Gmail service. Here’s some buzz for you, Google…you’re supposed to be a leader, not a follower!

So out of this postmordial soup of social networking sites there is a new creature crawling, one seeking the higher land of genuine relationships. Not a mouse click away, but rather a hug or a handshake. A new animal who says, “Social networking sites are so 2009.”

But the question remains: Is this new animal the continued evolution of social man, or just a bunch of Luddites who never really got it in the first place? Is this a trend worth watching, or just the backlash of a storm that has already moved on?

If it’s the latter, it’s a well-organized backlash. Sites like Web 2.0 Suicide Machine and Seppukoo offer users a web tool for quick and easy deselection from the so-net gene pool. So threatened is Facebook by Suicide Machine that they have blocked SM’s servers from even accessing the FB site. In other words, you can point the SM gun at your head, but the chambers are empty.

But here’s something to ponder. Maybe it took Facebook, Twitter, et al, to show us how much we really crave and need human interaction. I have had way too much fun on these sites reconnecting with old friends (all the way back to the early-70s), but maybe it’s time to go beyond Direct Messages and have Direct Contact.

Just last month I attended an Amarillo Tweet-Up at a nearby bowling alley. I knew only a few of the people from F2F interaction, but followed the vast majority of them on one site or another. It was good to put faces with the avatars. We drank beer. We bowled. (OK, maybe this is not a good combination, but it turned my lousy form into comedic relief.) We had fun.

My colleagues and I knew that things would change, and that they would change fast. It’s a landscape on which the paint never dries. But we are still looking at this new counter-movement to see if it has legs. Or is it going to simply crawl out of that soup and slither along on the beach of ideas that didn’t stick?

That’s a lot to ponder there as we pack up and head to the Pop Culture Association Southwest conference in Albuquerque tomorrow. But to be on the safe side, we’ll be tweeting and Facebooking the whole time. We kind of like this soup, you see.

Dr “Waiter, Another Bowl!” Gerlich




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