December 14, 2010
The Death of Human Interaction: A Pitfall of the Social Network
Not that many years ago there was a thriving business in my hometown of Columbiana, Ohio called The Lazy Bean Cafe. When it moved into its location in mid-2002 it was the place to be for all the kids (and even adults) in the community. It was the only place in town that made and served smoothies right in front of your eyes. The prices were doable for even the kids my age to get something a few times a week. The Lazy Bean also supported local art by having free concerts every Friday night for local bands. It was the place where you would meet friends to go somewhere or just to hangout in the Cafe. A place where people of all ages would meet to catch up with old friends or spend time with the friends they see daily. And so business was thriving for the owners of the Lazy Bean Cafe.
For a few years, things went on this way. Even through the beginnings of the recession the cafe remained strong and stable. Overall, the people of my small community saw little effect, for the most part, from the recession. Which is why things stayed mainly stagnant as far as the local market was concerned. Yet for some reason the Lazy Bean cafe was losing business. People were just not going there anymore. Personally, I know my friends still always had money to spend. The Cafe wasn't doing anything that would drive people away, at least not at that point in 2007. Everything was how it always had been, except that people just weren't buying their product anymore, and people weren't meeting or hanging out with friends their anymore. So in late-2008 they had to start taking drastic measures to keep their business afloat. They fired some of their workers and lowered the amount of hours the Cafe was open. Things didn't improve. So about a year after they did this they had to increase the prices of their product in order to make ends meet, which drove away most of the remaining consumers. They lasted only a few months after they changed their menu prices.
The members of the community were quick to blame the company's change of menu and prices for the reason their business was plummeting, but I saw through it. I know they wouldn't have had to change their menu if people were consistently coming to buy their products. The reason that the business failed wasn't because of anything they did. It was because people were no longer having conversations over bagels and coffee in their restaurant. There was no longer a need for a public place for people to meet up and talk. Their target market had been taken over by something more convenient, and the real world atmosphere they created was being replaced by something with no feelings or emotions at all. Something made of cold metal and wires. Something cheaper and easier to be a part of. Something that allowed you to have your entire social circle at your finger tips: an internet based social network.
Since it's inception in 2004, Facebook has surpassed Decayenne, Friendster, Myspace and all other social networks and become the most populace internet website in the world. More than five-hundred million people have joined the Facebook experience since its beginning and it is growing with every second of the day. Most of these users log on to Facebook everyday; and why shouldn't they? It's the easiest way to keep in contact with what their friends are up to as well as tell them what they have been up to. Sure does beat the heck out of having to walk somewhere to meet them and talk in person. Saves time, money, and most importantly energy.
Now, you don't even have to dial a phone number to talk to someone in real time. You just click their name and a box pops up for you to message them. Still, can you actually say that you are talking in “real time,” can you even really call it a conversation? After all, you can't see the person at all. Well, you can't SEE them when you are...