New Friend Request

Towards the end of her article “Sociable Media,” Judith Donath brings up the idea that new communication technologies enable people to keep in touch with more people. This topic is summed up with the sentence: “It is much less costly (in money, time and effort) to maintain personal ties via email than by paying personal visits.” Donath goes on to point out the challenge of staying in touch with more people is a challange that that the goal of sociable media is “to build tools to help people manage this complex personal social world.”

If thats the goal of sociable media I think it’s failing.

Technology allows me to keep in touch with more people, but it also allows me to avoid people just as easily. If I see an email and I don’t want to respond to it, I don’t have to. My cell phone (the only phone I use) has caller ID so I can choose who to talk to. I can hide behind an away message in AOL Instant Messenger. I have a Facebook account, but once I’ve accepted someone as a friend I never have to acknowledge them again. Theoretically, I’m in touch with hundreds of people. I regularily communicate (call, text, im, email) five people, that number includes my family.

So we have all this technology to keep in touch that nobody uses to keep in touch with. Why is this? Why does each new cell phone allow me to store more contacts if I don’t use them? And this isn’t just me being anti-social, only a few friends stay in contact from me. Ask yourselves this: out of all the people you can contact, how many do you stay in touch with?

Despite all this technology, we seem to have reverted to an older style of communication. In olden times, I understand that news traveled in gossip. When people got together they would pass around news about other people they knew. That news would then spiderweb out from that initial group of friends when those people gossiped to new people. Thats what I do. I call a friend who tells me about her best friend and her fiancee. I have half a dozen ways to contact both the fiancee and the best friend, I choose to get all my news from one source. I’m willing to bet this happens with everyone.

We’ve consolidated information enough that everything is in one place so we all save time. When did time become more important than actual communication between people?



  1. exploringinteractivecommunication said,

    September 25, 2007 at 12:26 am

    What is the future of CMC?

  2. delvyncale said,

    September 25, 2007 at 8:32 pm

    What makes us so frustrated when the phone actually rings? Why do we talk behind away messages? (I do it too) Its because we don’t want to be bothered…or only want to be bothered with certain people. Or we’re busy multi-tasking, as we often do. Will this lead to an isolated society? Or does will the ‘sharing’ mentioned in the Wiki article bring us closer?

  3. jadimauro said,

    September 26, 2007 at 1:55 am

    I often wonder the same thing, I mean we have made things supposedly so much easier to communicate but we have also made it so much easier to be isolated. Is it that we are too busy or that we might be so wrapped up in our lives that we don’t care about others. It’s really tough to say.

  4. Cait said,

    September 27, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    It’s a false security for people to think that they are not isolated when they actually are. I think knowing that you have the ability to contact someone the next day helps some people sleep at night. 🙂

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