It's too big to ignore now.
One of my biggest fears about the modern day and the rise in social integration in interactive mediums is that one day, an Average Joe’s life story will become available to the public eye and he’ll have no choice to accept it.
Now I’m not saying that we’re literally going to hit 1984 levels of privacy evasion. However, I do think that this push for an “always connected” community is taking away the value people, especially introverted people, spend taking care of themselves and their interpersonal relationships. This has even seeped into social games that choose to make friends resources, rather than allies.
In this series, I’ll go into social media, social games, and their potential affects on us as a community and developers making social experiences.
Now for the sake of this argument, I’m going to pick on Facebook for a bit.
Originally, I didn’t buy into Facebook. I didn’t like the idea of having to put so much information about myself on the Internet that would probably last forever. I do remember a time where I made an account just to see how quickly it would be noticed before deleting it again (which may be another post way down the line) but I pretty much ignored the trend up until I got my acceptance letter to college.
Now at the time, my college had a group where all of the new freshmen could chat together and get a feel for each other before orientation. Sighing to myself (and not wanting to be the only guy that didn’t know anyone), I hopped on Facebook and joined the group.
I remember how it snowballed. Slowly I’d receive friend requests from people in high school that I felt were decent enough people. Heck, I even accepted some requests from people I knew would be drama queens but would never involve me in their problems.
Yeah I admitted it. And I’m sure I’m not alone.
While this was happening, I got to chat with really awesome people who I liked so we’d send each other requests. Soon those people who felt distant felt like real people I could hang out with one day. This was great!
Cue junior year. At this point, I check Facebook purely out of boredom because I was so used to feeling rewarded for checking it every day in my freshman days. Sometimes I asked myself why I even bother logging in.
“Someone’s birthday is today. Hmm, better wish them well. Oh, I have a message. I probably should have answered that a while ago and I’m not sure how the person feels right now.”
“Why is my inbox so cluttered? Man, I was really stupid when I was a sophomore.”
“Oh look, I got invited to something. Guess I wouldn’t have known if it weren’t for my handy friend Facebook. Ugh, the event looks so disorganized. Do I even know some of these people?”
“Oh, looks like those guys made it official. I guess my hunch was right. Sigh, someone is bitching again. I could hide their posts, but sometimes their posts are kind of neat. I guess it’ll blow over soon.”
“Another vague status? Am I supposed to respond to this? Am I a bad person if I pretend I didn’t see it?”
Slowly, it stops becoming about connecting with your friends or creating meaningful relationships. You check your page just to “see what’s happening” although the truth is that, you don’t care about “what’s happening” per se; you care about not being the one that doesn’t know “what’s happening”. You feel obligated to go for the chance of getting a new piece of information that may or may not be there. And even if all you get are a list of spam or useless information, you get your social media hit; it’s the Skinner Box in action.
Not only that but social media allows us to easily paint the most presentable picture we want to our peers and various circles. Drama can even be played out in the best light to garner attention.
Birthdays, parties, special events, anxiety, job changes, relationship statuses, breakups, depression, and more have been automated in a way that we don’t have to remember them or deal with them like human beings. If we dare decide to step back, we risk losing our connections to the people we know and literally the things we know about each other.
For example, how many birthdays could you remember off of the top of your head that are in your social network? How many of them are your close friends or family? Acquaintances?
How many people do you think feel lonely despite having so many “relationships”?
Old Habits Die Hard
So you decide to throw your addiction under the bus and get away from social media. Let’s say that you’re on of the few that truly succeed and no longer feel compelled to use or check anything. In fact, everything you can think of has been deleted to the best of your ability. Well…
Have fun trying to get a job in this day and age, especially if you plan on heading into the game industry. Without a LinkedIn, YouTube, SoundCloud, blog, etc., you have a high chance of being swept under the rug, even if you’re good. Social media makes it easier to filter resumes and evaluate clients quickly. Even if you have deep connections somewhere, you’ll still need to maintain these relationships and most people do it through social media.
You could try and meet people the old fashioned way, and this still proves to be successful. But let’s say you meet a person in the library, a potential client for a deal, or a person at a company you like. Given the pace of the modern world, the chance of being forgotten is very high (even if you have your business card handy). This is where social media networking is amazing. You can send an invite, and get them on a list of some kind so even if they “forgot”, they can think to themselves “Hey, they’re on my list so I must’ve met at some point”. Heck, your profile alone may serve as a decent enough reminder (or a way for them to save face). Even on mediums like Twitter, you can message people that you may have never had the chance to talk to in real life.
You’ll also enjoy being the one not told about when anything important happens. Even amongst people you see every day, they may naturally forget you don’t use social media when they send out virtual invitations to everyone.
If you don’t maintain a social media pulse, you’ll become obscure; your presence will get mixed in with the noise of way more active people. Frankly, you have a much higher risk of being forgotten by acquaintances or overlooked in general.
And let’s hope that one day you don’t mess up big. Without being able to control your social presence on social media, people will make it for you. For better or worse.
The Blame Game
If you ignore social media, you feel out of place in your everyday interactions with your friends, peers, and colleagues. They’ll treat you as if you understand a bunch of obvious information and you should’ve known already. And if you prove that you don’t, you feel like an outsider. So you reengage.
Now I’m not going to blame Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, SoundCloud, etc., for everyone’s reliance on social media. They offer a great way to interact and share experiences with other people. However, I won’t say that I haven’t seen blatant exploitation to gain new users or to keep old ones through these types of services.
When a person feels like they are under the spotlight and can’t be real with themselves, it can cause unneeded stress. I mean, putting on airs all the time is exhausting. Sometimes we need to be a mess in order to clean ourselves up and move forward. Sometimes we need to know what our flaws are so that we can be reminded that we are only human and need help. Sometimes, we just need to know where our real relationships are and who really has our back when everything falls apart.
As people living in the modern age, we have to strike a balance between the two sides. We must tame our social presence on the Internet while also remembering to set time out for the people we care about. We can’t let convenience and breath override the depth that relationships have.
Going Into Social Games
Since social media isn’t going away anytime soon, games have be created in order to capitalize on the power it has. In Part 2, I will go into how this model is applied to social games and the consequences they may have to how we look at relationships, games, and the free to play model and market.