Not my words – just the name of an app that helps you avoid bumping into people you’d rather not see. ‘Hell Is Other People‘ uses FourSquare to locate people you know, and will show you how to avoid them. Seems it’s very popular.
More seriously, the recently published “Quiet in a World that Can’t Stop Talking’ by Susan Cain (a worldwide best seller by the way) illustrates very well that at least half the population has almost no interest in social technology. This is not a problem in one’s private life, but it can be one hell of a problem in business.
The promoters of social technology (Jive etc) make claims for the enhanced creativity social networks can bring – hogwash. It is very well known (read the book) that most creatives like to work alone. You wouldn’t expect anything else really; real innovative thinking comes from sustained contemplation on a topic and not from some social froth where everyone is trying to be smarter than everyone else. Social networks are for extroverts, and the rise of the extrovert coincided with the industrial revolution when people became displaced, and making an impression was synonymous with making the most noise. Before this they tended to be shunned. In reality social technology is often about hiding. Unknown social acquaintances come with no credentials other than the rap they deliver through social channels. And a lack of authenticated credentials will always work in favour of those with bad intent, or delusional tendencies. In the business setting social networks are used in the same way as email. 80% of the effort is dedicated to butt covering and political gesturing – the technology just encourages it.
As the pendulum swings – and it surely will, there will inevitably be a move back to a more sane, considered way of communicating. Walking up to someone and speaking with them can be surprisingly productive, but I fear it will need the business schools to give such activity a new buzzword before it becomes popular.