I wanted to share a comment that brilliant software engineer Norm Young left in response to my post about Andy Rutledge’s recent anti-social media rant:

The sun rises. The sun sets. The mob converses.

The significance of social media lies not in the content of the conversations they convey, but in the implications enabled by their form. This relative difference in emphasis entirely separates Mr. Rutledge’s views from my own. Anti-Social Media anthropomorphizes the social media, then applies a moral judgement to the attributed conversations. Shall we also judge the morality of the radio, the telegraph, the printing press, paper scrolls, stone tablets and cave walls?

No prior medium has enabled instantaneous, concurrent, many-to-many conversations simultaneously among points in space, time, populations and passages. In social media, practically any participant can address any other participant. Any passage can reference any other passage. Any citation can reach backwards or forwards to any point in recorded time. Furthermore, any node in the resulting conversational continuum is instantly accessible from any other node. Compare these attributes to social media’s predecessors.

Of course, I am not the first author to postulate “that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not by the content delivered over the medium, but by the characteristics of the medium itself.” – Marshall McLuhan

The moon waxes. The moon wanes. The mob converses.

Norm wins the prize for best rebuttal, but I think Andy might still win a prize for best website design – despite his crackpot ways. Can we bring him over to the Light Side, do you think? He’d be great on our team.

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