Zygmunt Bauman: “Social media are a trap” | EL PAÍS

Q. You are skeptical of the way people protest through social media, of so-called “armchair activism,” and say that the internet is dumbing us down with cheap entertainment. So would you say that the social networks are the new opium of the people?

A. The question of identity has changed from being something you are born with to a task: you have to create your own community. But communities aren’t created, and you either have one or you don’t. What the social networks can create is a substitute. The difference between a community and a network is that you belong to a community, but a network belongs to you. You feel in control. You can add friends if you wish, you can delete them if you wish. You are in control of the important people to whom you relate. People feel a little better as a result, because loneliness, abandonment, is the great fear in our individualist age. But it’s so easy to add or remove friends on the internet that people fail to learn the real social skills, which you need when you go to the street, when you go to your workplace, where you find lots of people who you need to enter into sensible interaction with. Pope Francis, who is a great man, gave his first interview after being elected to Eugenio Scalfari, an Italian journalist who is also a self-proclaimed atheist. It was a sign: real dialogue isn’t about talking to people who believe the same things as you. Social media don’t teach us to dialogue because it is so easy to avoid controversy… But most people use social media not to unite, not to open their horizons wider, but on the contrary, to cut themselves a comfort zone where the only sounds they hear are the echoes of their own voice, where the only things they see are the reflections of their own face. Social media are very useful, they provide pleasure, but they are a trap.

Source: Zygmunt Bauman interview: Zygmunt Bauman: “Social media are a trap” | In English | EL PAÍS

Zuckerman on Xenophilia and bridging

[Ethan Zuckerman](http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2010/07/14/a-wider-world-a-wider-web-my-tedglobal-2010-talk/) [spoke](http://www.slideshare.net/ethanz/a-wider-world-a-wider-web) at TED Global. Stephen Downes [wrote about it earlier](http://www.downes.ca/post/52886), and the [BBC just posted an article about it](http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-10642697).

Here’s the video from TED:

Ethan [posted the text of his talk](http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2010/07/14/a-wider-world-a-wider-web-my-tedglobal-2010-talk/). Here are some choice quotes:

>It’s data like this that’s leading me to conclude that the internet isn’t flattening the world the way Nicholas Negroponte thought it would. Instead, my fear is that it’s making us “imaginary cosmopolitans”. We think we’re getting a broad view of the world because it’s possible that our television, newspapers and internet could be giving us a vastly wider picture than was available for our parents or grandparents.
>When we look at what’s actually happening, our worldview might actually be narrowing.

on filtering:

>We tend to use two types of filters to manage the internet – search, which is great at telling us what we want to know, and social, which promises to tell us things that we don’t know we want to know. There’s a lot of people trying to engineer serendipity by taking advantage of the fact that not only are you on the internet, your friends are also on the internet. And if your friends – or just someone with similar interests – finds something that’s interesting, it might be a serendipitous discovery for you as well.
>There’s just one problem with this method. Human beings are herd animals. Like birds of a feather, we flock together. And so what you see on a site like Reddit or Digg – or what links you get from your friends on Facebook or Twitter – is what the flock is seeing. The flock might help you find something that’s unexpected and helpful, but it’s not likely to find you something from halfway around the world.

This set my PLN radar pinging. The talk of crafting the personal learning network/environment, to harness network effects, etc… is the explicit construction of flock-powered echo chambers. We choose to include people whom we mostly agree with. Everybody gets a group hug. And we slowly shrink the subset of the world to which we pay attention.

on the power of bridges to connect different communities and flocks:

>For a wider web, we need this third form of filtering – we need search, social, but we also need these shepherds to help us break out of our flocks and find different voices.


>If we want a wider world, we need to celebrate, recognize and amplify the influence of these bridge figures.
>And we need people to walk across these bridges.

and finally

>How do we cultivate xenophiles, celebrate bridge builders and rewire the media so we’re experiencing a wide world and not just our flock?

Xenophilia. An affection for the unknown. The people that seek to connect different communities, cultures, flocks, etc… This is what’s needed – but not for some magic individuals to step up and take the role. We need to support and foster xenophilia in everyone. It’s the only way to break out of the insular withdrawal that results from flocking filtering.

from *[A wider world, a wider web: my TED Global Talk](http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2010/07/14/a-wider-world-a-wider-web-my-tedglobal-2010-talk/)* by Ethan Zuckerman