Chapter 1 and Podcast 1 from Superconnected

Chapter 1 of Superconnected introduces the reader to key concepts and understandings regarding the techno-social nature of our everyday lives. Here’s the podcast associated with the chapter (it’s also on the Podcasts page), and some thoughts on these issues, below.

 

 

 

Human beings are inherently social. That is, we gravitate toward one another to fulfill many of our needs, including safety, shelter, sustenance, companionship, and love.  Left to our own devices, cut off from one another, we would be underdeveloped intellectually and emotionally. We would be much more vulnerable to danger. The world is better faced in the company of others.

People’s tendency to form connections and bonds with one another, and to live life to a great extent in concert with others, is called sociality, and a great deal of this can be accomplished via digital technology. To form social ties and bonds, people must coordinate their actions, and even their thoughts and emotions, with others. To do this, they must locate and get to know one another and determine the extent to which interpersonal similarities, commonalities, and synergies exist. And it is not necessary to be physically face-to-face with another person for all of this to occur.

As technology mediates between and among people, it facilitates the flow of information from person to person and from network to network. This allows people to discover the kinds of commonalities that can inspire social connectedness. Contrary to what some assume, the use of internet, digital, and mobile technologies do not tend to deter face-to-face interaction. Rather, they prompt face-to-face interaction, making it more likely to occur. This is a consistent finding, backed up by study after study, that seems counter-intuitive to some. But it is a key fact in the study of techno-social life.

By enabling more and more people to form and maintain social connections, and even to make dates to get together physically, the use of digital technology has had an overall positive impact on sociality. Some people get to know others better when their contact with them is primarily digital as opposed to face-to-face. Distance can enhance closeness. Mobile media use allows contact and connectedness to made nearly any time, any place; people can be available to one another much of the time and engage in frequent interactions that make the relationship hardier and more likely to be continued face-to-face.

Moreover, those who use the internet and digital media most often are those who stay in closest contact with their friends face-to-face. They use the technology to check in on friends and family members and post updates so all can remain “in the know.” They use the tech to arrange get-togethers. They are more likely to have close relationships and confidants, and to form local, neighborhood relationships, than non-internet users, too. The internet and digital media use make it much easier to make and maintain social contacts and relationships, both online and offline. At the same time, significant risks and dangers exist online, as in every interpersonal setting.

Given the human desire and need for togetherness, and the ability of technology to serve as an interpersonal mediator, it makes sense that people would turn to technology to bring them together so they can experience sociality, even (or especially) when they are separated by space and time. Doing so has become a routine use of the internet and digital media and explains much about the tremendous expansion and popularity of these technologies.  Accordingly, individuals in technology-rich communities and societies tend to live techno-social lives.

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