Discussing Social Media and a variety of Facebook readings: the assignment, loneliness, a flight from conversation, the future

Before we get to these last readings on Facebook and beyond, I thought I’d return briefly to talk about the semester of social media project.  I know you’re all working on finishing up that last update on your semester of social media today– remember, they’re due today by midnight!  And also remember a draft of your essay must be ready for peer review by the end of the day on Friday!

Your updates this term– including the one due today– are supposed to be fairly informal and really about keeping you on track and/or involved in your various social media experiments as the term goes on.  After all, you can’t really procrastinate and “cram in” a semester worth of social media experience in an afternoon.  On the other hand, the essay is supposed to be a little more “formal” and “essay-like” than the updates.  Another way of putting that is I will be much more critical about this as a piece of well-written prose.

It’s also important that you demonstrate the connections you make to the reading I assigned this term.  Perhaps this goes without saying, but that’s one of the points of a piece of writing like this, for you to demonstrate that you’ve read and thought about the stuff I assigned you to read, and you’re able to make connections between those readings and the experiences you had with social media.

Oh, and I’ll set up peer review groups by Friday, probably three groups of three each.

Okay, that out of the way: this is where we’ll talk about the various Facebook readings for this second part of the week:   “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?”“The Flight from Conversation;” “Sherry Turkle–the flight from conversation… a response.”“The harsh reality of social media”; and “The Jig is Up:  Time to Get Past Facebook and Invent a New Future.”

A few thoughts after the break, but the purpose for this last week is some readings/talking about Facebook in particular (since I am assuming most folks have some familiarity with it and it is the biggest player in social media right now) and about what might be the future of social media.  There are lots of other things we could read and/or talk about here– these things are all from last year and there has been more (though I haven’t come across anything in the last year that is radically different/new).   In other words, if you’ve come across other articles in the vein of these pieces, by all means share them here.

First off, I blogged about the “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely” article here when it first came out.  If you’re curious about my thoughts, you can go there to read it.

The Sherry Turkle readings (both “for” and “against” on our relationships with social technologies) are interesting and straight-forward, though there’s one thing worth noting here that you might not otherwise get from these pieces.  Turkle has been studying this stuff for a long time, and two books she wrote– The Second Self, which was published in 1984, and Life on the Screen, which was published in 1995– takes what I would describe as a much more “positive” or at least nuanced approach to human relationships with her more recent work, this article and the book-length treatment of this, Alone Together.

The other articles here are speculating about the future of Facebook and social media more generally.  The consensus of things that I’ve read (and stuff we’ve already discussed) seems to be that while “social media” is probably not going away anytime soon and it is not merely a “fad,” Facebook is not necessarily going to stay as important as it is forever.  This squares well with a lot of Shirky’s arguments both in the sense of claims Shirky is making and also relative to his examples– e.g., who still uses LiveJournal, Friendster, or MySpace, and it struck me on re-reading Shirky the other day that Twitter came to be while he was finishing the book.

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