Antisocial Networking?

The world of social media is something that has affected all of our lives in recent years. It seems that every few months there’s a new website to join or app to download for sharing parts of your life with friends and strangers alike. Even if you’re not online yourself, it’s hard to ignore the increase in the use of social networking in the media. It’s rare to find an advert at a bus stop without a Twitter handle at the bottom and fans can now keep up with their favourite bands via their Facebook pages. Despite all this, there has also been a rise in a new concept- antisocial media. Apps such as Snapchat and Nextdoor are taking us out of the public spotlight and allowing us to use networking apps and websites to connect with a very limited number of people.

One of the most recent anti-social media developments is Snapchat, a smartphone app, which allows people to send photos and videos to their friends that disappear within 10 seconds of them being opened. The real-time picture chatting app connects users with friends via saved phone numbers or by searching exact usernames, making it very difficult to connect with total strangers. The app was created as ‘a connection between friends’ and it is often described as ‘the anti-Facebook’- a place for people to share all the photos that DO NOT belong online!

In the US, social networking site Nextdoor also provides users with an alternative to Facebook. Aimed to improve communication between neighbours and make streets safer, Nextdoor only allows users to connect with their neighbours and uses location data to limit people’s connections to their locality. Social networks like this are aimed at friends, rather than the public but still let people share messages and media with those who really want to see it. Perhaps these networks are not really ‘anti-social’, but are actually MORE sociable than some of the most popular websites. Surely connecting with people we know is of more value to us than sharing irrelevant details of our lives with total strangers?

However, one social experiment in New York has taken the idea of anti-social networking to the next level. ‘Hell is Other People’ is an online service that allows users to track where their ‘friends’ are through data shared by Foursquare, suggesting alternative ‘safe zones’ to go, where you are not likely to bump into anyone you know.

It appears that the privacy issues are at the heart of antisocial networking. It’s hard to ignore the increasing number of online privacy horror stories in the media and schools are now encouraging pupils to only connect with people they know. And let’s not ignore the fact that some people simply don’t want to share photos and information with others. But are we forgetting the true beauty of these technological developments? We now have the power to connect with people on the opposite side of the globe, something which was previously very difficult to do.

Maybe we can learn something from anti-social media. These apps still allow us to communicate with our friends, family and colleagues without being tempted to “overshare”. Perhaps using social media to cut off the rest of the world is pretty extreme, but more than a few people out there could do with thinking twice about sharing what they had for dinner with all 500 of their Facebook friends, because quite frankly, who cares?!

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