Dirk Knemeyer

Social networking technology and group behavior

Social networking technology and group behavior, March 9, 2009

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

My buddy Lou tweeted into the ether a few minutes ago, trying to get an impromptu little meet-up of people who happen to be on the same flight as he, heading down to the South by Southwest conference. Assuming there is modest response, I can envision half a dozen or so design industry-related souls happily seeing and greeting each other at the gate before the flight. How strange that will seem! Having flown literally hundreds of time in my life, the idea of a group of people meeting in a pre-arranged way, chatting enthusiastically, possibly trying to convince others to change seats with them so they continue to kibbitz – while those same others are tortoise-shelled and stressed, waiting to hear their group number called out and hoping their carry-on bags will have enough overhead space – is a bit surreal.

Social network technology is going to create these weird moments of juxtaposition, where people are suddenly friendly and familiar in public spaces that were previously – and almost universally – uncomfortable, anonymous and inhuman. What is the impact going to be? Annoyance? Appreciation? What will the other people at the JetBlue gate think and feel? How will they react? In five years, will MOST of the people getting onto an airplane have “pre-arranged” to socialize in more comfortable and familiar ways? What will that mean? If its really “open” and too many people get involved for it to be comfortable, will it create a new form of isolation? Could it lead to further class warfare and stratification?