WITH contd – Hey, social media commentators: It’s about us stupid.

Alex Madrigal, The Atlantic’s tech writer, has a really nice response to Zadie Smith’s critique of both the film Social Network and facebook itself and its meaning.

Madrigal is hitting on the main thing that most social media phobic critiques miss (eg. Jaron LanierGladwell and Sherry Turkle’s upcoming book which I had the chance to respond to at a recent conference at Bard): the technology is made by us. Us people. Our relationship needs and issues exist without and with the technology.So what is it we are going to do about it? Alex Madrigal mentions a need for a kind of “urban planning” to make facebook and social media better. This is like the idea Stowe Boyd had a while back to approach social media like architecture.  Ross Douthat today commented in the New York Times on Madrigal’s Atlantic comment on Zadie Smith’s NY Review of Books piece saying he weighed in on the side of Madrigal’s call for “mastery” of social media rather than avoiding it.

 

And even if these publications weren’t finally online and blogging they’d still have esteemed writers writing about each other and people would talk to each other about it and hey, that sounds an awful lot like social media and the Internet, only slower.

 

I disagree entirely with Douthat’s framing of the question or Smith’s that our challenge is about “how to remain human in a social media world.”  Our challenge is how to be connected to our humanity with or without social media.

 

Ross Douthat and Zadie Smith why are you so sure we have more human-ness before social media rather than after?

 

Dissociation is easy to come by. I did it with books for years. Does it make that act less real than when it’s done with a screen? You can do it with a drink, a thought, a snort, a fuck. You can check out and not see others or feel your own basic impulse extremely easily. Intellectuals are as good at this as anyone. Whether you got a PhD for your method of checking out or the delirium tremens our need is to fell what it is we really feel and to be able to handle those feeling, thus developing enough as people to be able to handle and see and enjoy what is in others too, including what is different.

 

I believe the real question we face is: how can we be ourselves and be ourselves together. How can we be WITH each other?

 

And I believe that social media is part of a major change in our getting closer to this. Because people who have only been able to manage analytically are getting forced to reconnect to the relational and the relational is getting translated into data where the analytical can understand it.