Does Mobile Social Media = Antisocial Behavior?

by Scott Pollard on January 13, 2010

I bought my first iPhone 4-6 months after the initial release and have not looked back. Despite the relatively slow speeds, I was enamored with the functionality, features and “Web Apps”.  A close friend of mine would constantly tease me about my “puppy phone” that I never put down.  To make a long story short, I was hooked and have been fortunate to upgrade to each new iPhone shorty after it’s release.  In fact, with some juggling on my combined family plan, AT&T honored my upgrade price each time.  Even better, I sold each previous iPhone for a profit and more than covering my new iPhone purchase.

The release of the iPhone 3G coincided with the opening of the App Store on iTunes.   As everyone is well aware, availability and advancements in smartphones from various manufacturers and service providers have exploded in the eighteen months since.  The improvements in the iPhone since the original release less than three years ago have been remarkable, but in reality it reflects the smartphone industry as a whole.  Smartphone competition fosters performance and functional improvements which is good for the consumer.  With a new generation of Tablet PCs (maybe an Apple iSlate) on the horizon, will this technology boom serve to bring us closer together with social media or in fact will it lead to greater isolation?

As I mentioned above, I have been and still am guilty of treating my phone as an extension of my hand. Even in group settings, I find myself sneaking opportunities or excuses to check my phone.  I might be checking e-mail, updating my status on Facebook, or browsing pictures from last weekend’s party.   I might be reading my local paper, CNN, or any other of the countless news sources available in Apps or mobile format.  I might be checking on and chatting about an NFL score or I might even find time to read the play-by-play recap.  The point is, even when physically entrenched in a social setting, you will notice others (like me) that are paying more attention to the social media in their hands then the actual social contacts immediately surrounding them.

If you pay attention, you will even notice this trend in much larger social settings.  I have been able to attend a few NFL games in the last six months.  During the very social event of tailgating at stadiums in Denver and Chicago, I noticed lots of excited cheering fans taking pictures of themselves and each other.  The pictures included complete strangers, brand new friends, and people I never actually met, but we all shared a common bond as fans of the home team.   After the pictures were snapped, some of  them stopped their celebrating long enough to upload those pictures to Facebook so friends not attending the game could see how much fun they were having.  Wouldn’t it be more social to stay engaged in the group of people with whom you are celebrating and upload pictures on the way home?  Only if you are not the (designated) driver, of course.

Beyond social media, the entertainment offerings on smartphones and mobile devices are virtually infinite with no end in sight.  As technology advances at this exponential rate, we must adapt and adjust our behavior accordingly. We must learn new rules to follow when using mobile social media and the consequences that can occur when the technology is misused.

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