Sunday, February 20, 2011

Purveyor of Social Capital

Qui?  Moi?

A heard a man interviewed on the radio yesterday talking about a party the previous night. At one point in the evening he was speaking with three other people, and in the course of their short conversation, all had taken out their SmartPhones to see if they had just received any messages or tweets. Each of them, he said, were checking back roughly every three minutes.

Whereas I would have been offended, this gentleman was relatively pleased. The experience confirmed his theory. He had recently finished writing an article about the relationship between our use of social media and gambling.

His theory is this. The randomness of who’s trying to connect with us, share a link, send a photo or video gets us into trouble, like gambling. We never know when someone’s trying to send us something – equal to striking it rich, as it were. We’ve lost all boundaries in our social behaviour because our quest for the (random) next hit is so strong. Something really good might come along at any second. We’d  better go check. And we forget to even say “excuse me” when we do. Cuz we’re addicted.

We’re simply Purveyors of Social Capital, he says. We’re using social media to create community, and we need it bad. Unlike face-to-face interaction, messaging with anyone in the world can be instantaneous. And the randomness of possible interactions means they can come at any moment. You never know, do you?  Nope, better go check.

I understand what the guy is getting at. I’ve found myself pulling out my cell to check for texts or messages –  in the middle of a meeting, walking across the street, while in conversation with my husband. I never thought it would happen, especially since I hate it so much when someone else does it. But yes, it’s become a bit compulsive. Who and what could possibly be so important that I can’t wait a few minutes, even hours? Please, tell me.

You can’t.  So I’ll tell myself. Maybe one of my kids needs me. Well, maybe they do. But at this very moment? Most likely not (and they’re just my excuse, anyway). But since an emergency call could come in any second, i.e. randomly, I lose my boundaries, not to mention scruples and marbles. I wind up pulling out my phone, which is tantamount to telling (implicity, not explicity) the person or people I’m with that someone else may be more important at this moment than you are (like call waiting). I’ll just check to find out. Be back shortly.

It’s time for me to set better boundaries. No longer a constant Purveyor of Social Capital will I be. I’m taking this so seriously, I’m off to a birthday party tonight and will leave my cell phone on the kitchen table while I’m gone, charging. I'll try cold turkey.

I'll let you know asap how it goes. Check back soon. But since you won't know exactly when I'll be getting home, you better make that often, not just soon. That's the problem with randomness.


  1. Healthy Social CapitalistFebruary 26, 2011 at 6:23 AM

    So? We out here in cyberspace continue to await the report on your cold turkey experiment. I, for one, am very... oops, gotta go - cell-phone is dinging - musta missed a call!)

  2. Like you I thought I was immune to the siren call of my B'berry. It is an insidious little device though isn't it? When you are waiting for/hoping for/excited about feedback on your latest project or idea and you've fired off emails yourself filled with blandishments because your ego wants that feedback to be equally complimnetary but you fear that it won't - well, when that little monster rings or politely vibrates you just have to sneak a peak. The only thing harder to resist - I'm just guessing if course - but if I wrote a blog, I'd have to check for comments every five minutes. You?