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Friday, September 21, 2012

The illusive world of social media

I am Italian and, despite the fact that I am not living anymore in Italy since few years, when Italy has to renew  the government, I still vote there.

Since,after I left my country, I don't have many opportunities to meet in person with my old friends, I often used to debate with them through social media (not now, I closed my fb account)

At the last political elections, back in 2008, among my friends we were pretty convinced that Berlusconi had no chance to win.
But then the polls already had different predictions and finally, he definitely won.

The problem is that when you meet with people in real life, you tend to aggregate with those having similar interests, probably with a similar level of instruction and potentially with similar political views.
However in real life you simply MEET people of different kind.
You may not necessarily try to meet and discuss with someone, but simply as you walk down the street you need to interact with "others".

With social media it is different, you don't HAVE to bump into whoever, you CHOSE to.
If this sounds "cool" on one side, it has some serious side effects.
I believe you end up getting an illusive picture of the world, it's probably a world that resembles a lot what you already had in mind, so it gets addictive.

It is something that "proves you right" and, let's face it, we all like that.
However it fails badly in being "culturally challenging" which, I personally believe, is one of the main drivers for our cultural evolution.

My point is : social media are products, as such they need to generate profits.
In order to generate profits they need to sell and to sell they must please their customers.
What pleases you more than being surrounded by people you know, that shares your habits, interests, views...
We are fundamentally "lazy" and we normally feel at ease when others confirm our opinions, it means we do not need to over-think, to challenge them.

But in the end, is it good for us?

I have a small youtube channel and I just checked the stats :
the vast majority of the viewers are males between 35 and 44 years, just like I am.

Is there a new way of designing social media to stimulate an honest, open debate, to challenge our beliefs and at the same time being attractive to us?

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