The Dudes Do ASHA 2011: Day 3. Of Anti-Social Networks and Tweet Ups

Being “of a certain age,” I remember the times before cell phones and before the Internet. The world wasn’t actually in black and white during those times but it was different. The development of connectivity via cellular networks and the global Internet web has created a culture where people are available all the time, unless they physically choose to go off the grid. Whether this has affected human cultural evolution for good or ill is still under debate, a discussion that will doubtless continue for many years to come.

In her book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle [1] says that “our networked life allows us to hide from each other, even as we are tethered to each other.” What we call “Social Networks” can function as anti-social networks, providing virtual relationships that are measured by the number of Facebook friends or Twitter followers one has.

Alone Together: Turkle

The strength of connectivity is seen in a study by Jan Van den Bulck from the University of Leuvan in Belgium, where is was found that among 13-year-olds, 13.4% reported being woken up one to three times a month; 5.8% were woken once a week; 5.3% were woken several times a week; and 2.2% were disturbed every night. Being permanently connected can be a serious problem for some kids. [2]

In another study by Glenn Wilson from the University of London, he studied the technology company Hewlett Packard and found that employees who spent lots of time texting at work suffered from reduced concentration and productivity. [3]

But is the fabric of social relationships breaking down or are they just changing to accommodate new technologies?

Well, the good news is that given the opportunity to meet face-to-face, the individuals of the Twitter group #SLPeeps are happy to stop tweeting for at least an hour for the great ASHA 2011 tweet up! Between 4:30 and 5:30 PST on November 19th, some 20 virtual friends got together to introduce themselves in the flesh. Not everyone could get there because it is, after all, a conference, and some folks already had commitments elsewhere. But even those who couldn’t be there were tweeting about the event.

These types of interaction are part of the ASHA experience. Sure, we all come to hear lectures and enrich our knowledge, but the human networking is far more important. You can download the notes and slides from any of the presentations but you can’t download the company of friends. So whether it’s a tweet up, a night in a restaurant, a few drink by the bar, or a boat trip across the bay to Coronado Island, it’s these old-fashioned social networks that matter.

Notes
[1] Turkle, S. (2011). Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. Basic Books: New York.

[2] Van den Bulck, J. (2003). Text messaging as a cause of sleep interruption in adolescents; evidence from a cross-sectional study. Journal of Sleep Research, 12, 263-284.

[3] Cited in Crystal, D. (2008). Txtng: the gr8 db8. Oxford University Press: Oxford.

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