Friday, 21 February 2014

Social networking services plus smart phones is crack cocaine for young women


Crack cocaine is so pleasurable for its users that compared with it nothing else matters so much - it is highly addictive, dependence producing, and withdrawal leads to misery and drug-seeking. Many or most humans are pretty much helpless in the face of experiencing crack cocaine - the drug is stronger than human agency.

The combination of 'social networking services' (Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube etc) with ubiquitous mobile smartphone technology seems to have an analogous effect on young women: compared with messaging nothing else matters, they are pretty much helpless - the drug is stronger than their agency.


That this is a fact is obvious - just look around you.

Whether sitting, standing or walking; in private and in public, alone or with friends and family around them; at work or in leisure; eating or at the toilet; in any time or place possible, young women are social networking in preference to anything else.

Nothing else matters so much.

There has never been anything like this in the history of the world!


Does it matter? Is it just a bit of a laugh - nothing to worry about?

Well, does it matter how people spend nearly all of their time; or not?

You tell me.



SFG said...

I won't deny they probably aren't getting the social skills of earlier generations in terms of decoding complicated facial expressions, but it's not as if they're playing video games (which, indeed, boys would do)-- they're playing the same social games women have always played, they're just doing it over text. Which isn't that different from doing it in a rapid-form version of the epistolary fashion people did things 100 years ago.

They still meet up and shack up, whereas crack cocaine addicts tend to get lost in the drug. I'm not saying shacking up is good--it's part of a larger decline--but it's a separate issue from the smartphones. In a hypothetical Godly fifties-ish America (as a Briton you may have your own touchstones) they'd be sharing pictures of their children and talking to their friends from high school who now live across the country. Which, of course, they are now doing. Women love to communicate, particularly about each other.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SFG - You are wrong. This is something *essentially* new under the sun.

You are explaining *why* it happens - but that does not mean it is not qualitatively different from anything that has happened before.

Saying 'it could be worse' makes no difference at all!

SFG said...

I suppose, but they're still talking to each other and gossiping and doing traditional woman things, just through the smartphone. You can't see what they're doing without peering at their screens (which wouldn't end well), so it looks like to you like they're just pushing buttons all day.

It's the men whose social skills have slid down the toilet (and I am not saying I am exempt!)

Bruce Charlton said...

@SFG - It is a separate issue - but men's social interactions are based around their relatives (that is the primary male alliance, the clan) - and alliances of non-related man working together on projects (hunting, war, building, or in various teams). Men have never been much interested in social interaction with strangers just for the sake of it.

Social skills is a girly notion!

JP said...

I think social media on smart phones is a qualitatively different phenomenon from previous eras.

1. Someone with a phone is accessible 24/7/365. Back in the old days she could not "share pictures with the girls" at any time of day or night.

2. Someone with a phone can interact with others while in the presence of someone else. Back in the old days she could *either* chat with the girls *or* interact with her family, but she could not do both at the same time.

3. Social media increases the number of people she can interact with simultaneously. She can get a constant stream of comments and emails from hundreds of friends that provides non-stop distraction. Back in the old days she could talk with only a few friends at a time.

Thus the phone with the social media exponentially increases the frequency and intensity of interaction with others at the expense of involvement with her immediate environment.

Nicholas Fulford said...

"The medium becomes the message" - paraphrase of Marshall McLuhan.

If we look at how the Internet in its various forms - blogs; Facebook; Twitter; et cetera - has changed the ways in which people interact, it becomes obvious that the medium is shaping how we think and behave in some pretty fundamental ways. The content is a projection of some persistent patterns of behaviour, but the medium does shape us.

SFG said...

"Social skills is a girly notion!"

Ha, wish I could dismiss it so easily ;) I would say there is some skillset that is important that is declining among men (and probably women to a lesser degree).

As a side note, you are also, as a Brit, not subject to this odious cheerfulness enforced on Yanks.

But...back to the original topic, how does the smartphoning differ from the historic female processes of gossip and schmooze? You don't think they're spending *all* their time playing Candy Crush, do you?

SFG said...

Oh, and because I don't actually disagree with you that all this smartphoning may be bad: the argument I've heard which I find convincing is that a high level of instantaneous social interaction causes people to be conditioned to a quick fix rather than longer interactions which aren't as deep. I'd be curious to hear your take on this.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JP - Good analysis of why.

Jonathan C said...

I laughed when I read the title. Bruce, it's like you've written a breathless post on the fact that 1 + 1 = 2.

What's new under the sun is that they're never off the clock, and you never have their full attention.

Well, some can still muster their full attention on demand. With the more stable girls, a sharp rebuke can do the trick. But some really can't, and one has to let those friendships go.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JC - Maybe everybody knows this stuff already from the media - but I am going from personal observation, and it has crept up on me.

First mobiles c 15 years ago, then texting c 10-12 years ago, then internet social networking, then the iPhone and its clones - and only then the combination was in place; and suddenly I notice that 80-90 percent of young women walking past me on a busy main road are locked-onto their smartphones, even when crossing the road...

The frog slowly being boiled.

As a generalization - women are considerably more vulnerable than men to the evolutionary mis-match effects of modernity:

SFG said...

JP: you've said it better than I did. Thanks!