Do Social Platforms Bring Us Closer Together?

internet connectedness realationship depth breadth

Many assume that globalization and the Internet have brought us closer together. Certainly the world is flatter and more connected, but how has that affected the quality of our relationships overall?

Just because I have someone’s email address certainly doesn’t mean they are going to reply if I ask for a favor. Startup investors know that just being aware of a deal does not mean they can get access (the ability to write a check). And just because I email with friends from college, or chat on Whatsapp, doesn’t necessarily say much about the depth or quality of our relationships.

Likewise platforms can result in each of us living in our own echo chamber or information bubble. Do I have the right type of relationship diversity (diversity of people and information) if my default relationships are all with other people who hold the same viewpoints as my own? What happened to the idea of Lincoln’s Team of Rivals?

Anyone who has lived in New York City can attest to being surrounded by people constantly and yet sometimes feeling lonely. I hope we are not edging to a similar reality as more and more of our time (and thus relationships) are managed electronically.

The Internet can be a double edged sword: it encourages us to find our tribes, no matter how niche, and thus we can naturally find ourselves existing in groups that reinforce our own (possibly biased, possibly wrong) opinions. At the same time, the Internet can be a catalyst that bring us together and exposes us to ideas and people we never could have imagined pre-web.

Timing may also have a lot to do with relationship quality. Think of how quickly the country was able to unite after 9/11. Following World War II, there was a very real and clear sense of how the events in far-flung countries could collectively impact the world. My grandparents generation had a very clear sense of inter-connectedness. I’m not advocating for another war or catastrophe to bring us together, but pointing out, that perhaps the platforms and the Internet will ultimately prove themselves to be a uniting force when coupled with future global happenings.

Perhaps we will see new platforms emerge following the in footsteps of  Dave Morin’s Path. New platforms and communities able unlock a different approach to relationship building, focused more on depth than breadth. Or possibly communities that encourage civilized debate and discourse.

The major platforms have connected us all – the question now is how to do leverage that connectedness in a meaningful way?


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