Friday, February 12, 2010

Can social networking be anti-social?

Originally published in Ipswich 24 magazine January 2010 edition.

On the whole the live music lark has always been quite well attended in our fair town but only a fool wouldn’t acknowledge that things have taken a bit of a dip recently. I’ve been shrugging this off as a part of the usual peaks and troughs nature of the Ipswich music scene, but now I’ve got concerns that this dip in attendance might be the result of something graver. Before I go any further with this theory I want to make it clear that to a certain extent I’m being fussy as I’m a (have-a-go) musician and live music will always do well in this town, no matter what faces it, but if you’re in a band then it would always be nice to have a packed room at every show.

I’m a fan of FaceBook and MySpace, - I mean, who can honestly say they don’t enjoy using social networking – but I’ve always been quite wary of it. Some people (like myself) see it as an extension of our social lives, somewhere to plan getting together with friends, and a facility for a post meet up discussion. But at the other end of the scale appears to be people who have replaced an actual social life with one lived out on FaceBook. Now I’m no Luddite (in fact a part of the way I make my living involves spending a lot of time investigating and promoting social networking) but I’m concerned that a growing number of people don’t know where to draw the line between their virtual life and the real world.

So how’s this passion for the fashion of FaceBook relate to gigs in Ipswich? It’s my theory that before the social networking explosion the lull between the performances at gigs was where most of us were social with our friends. It’s obvious that we gig going folk love live music, but we also love the gaps between the bands for catching up with people we probably don’t see outside of the sphere of live events. Then things started to change, people we only saw at shows started to find us on Facebook. I can’t help but wonder if the constant drip feed of social updates we are exposed to every day from these friends negates the desire to socialise publically, a least to a small degree. If you’ve seen thirty updates detailing every aspect of your friend’s lives over the preceding week what will you talk about when you see them in person? At the very worst will you feel the need to leave the house and go to all the expense of a night out at all?

Hopefully (as per my original caveat) I’m being over sensitive; perhaps it’s the case that getting together in the ‘real world’ has been facilitated by social networking and has become positively symbiotic. I guess I just need a little more convincing.