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SOCNET  January 2008

SOCNET January 2008

Subject:

Re: Tom Hodgkinson's op-ed in The Guardian on Facebook

From:

danah boyd <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

danah boyd <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 17 Jan 2008 00:01:01 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (118 lines)

*****  To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org  *****

On Jan 16, 2008, at 10:42 PM, Edward Vielmetti wrote:

>> 5) parents at home because they can't really go and hang out with  
>> their friends because babysitting costs too bloody much
>
> The right online parents group will spawn dozens of in-person small  
> group meetings per week, and none of it will have to be centrally  
> managed or even organized - the simple fact that you have a  
> functioning way to communicate with people like you brings you  
> closer together. The real awesome network applications for parents  
> at home is the babysitting exchange

Based on my fieldwork, I would have to disagree with you.  Consider  
for example this exchange:

danah: Do you do sleepovers at all?
Anindita: I’m not allowed to.
danah: Why is that?
Anindita: ‘Cause my dad doesn’t trust the dads or the brothers. He’s  
like, “her Dad can get drunk and you don’t know...”

I find that many US parents don't trust other parents.  The reasons  
are fascinating.  Many US families move when they start having  
children and move again when they "need more space." They often do not  
know their neighbors or kids' friends' parents.  When I ask them why,  
they uniformly tell me that they don't have time.  Families are quite  
insular and the kids are expected to be at home because the outside  
world is dangerous.  Likewise, the parents are also always home and  
wouldn't feel comfortable leaving their child in the house to gather  
with other parents.  There's no hanging out on the stoops, even in  
communities that have them, so there's no natural meeting of other  
parents.  At best, you get PTAs which in the middle/upper classes have  
turned quite competitive.

Exceptions are interesting... Cousins (and aunties) play a critical  
role in the lives of immigrant families and many working class  
families of color, where nearby family is common and trusted and  
sitting duties are regularly exchanged.  These family-driven networks  
form powerful subcommunities when they're present.  The other bigtime  
noticeable exception is any community where the average family lives  
there for 20 or so years.  Old school suburbia is a good example of  
this (examples: Lawrence KS, Salem MA), but it's also present in urban  
settings, especially poorer neighborhoods. New suburbia is the  
absolute worst.

Painting broad strokes, I've found that regular F2F socialization  
approaches zero as people in the U.S. marry and spawn, especially in  
the middle/upper classes. [Not surprisingly, this is where helicopter  
parenting comes from... if you don't have a social life, might as well  
invade your child's.]

So I agree that babysitting exchange would rock, but you need to  
overcome the trust issue first.


On Jan 16, 2008, at 8:57 PM, Scott Allen wrote:

> Of course, there are those of us in the #7 category, who work almost  
> entirely virtually and really do build strong relationships with  
> people we meet online.

Actually, you're right... you get added to the tech fetishists and  
bloggers category, which should probably be expanded to "geeks of all  
stripes."  <grin>

What we've found in our research is that there are two organizing  
principles of online socializing practices: interest-driven and friend- 
driven.  People who are interest-driven (lovingly called "geeks") seek  
out people who share their passions, regardless of location, and  
thrive on access to the technologies that connect them more broadly to  
others of their stripe.  As much as we'd love for this to be everyone,  
it's not...  Most people are not primarily interest-driven in their  
social practices, although many have a portion of their social  
practices that fit into this category.

The majority of people and the majority of practices are friend- 
driven.  This means that interests are derived through friends, not  
the other way around.  This is why most people go online to connect to  
people that they already know to reinforce relationships that they  
already have. At best, this cohort will leverage the technology to  
meet a friend of a friend (just like at a good dinner party).

The largest exception is quite obvious: sex.  By and large, when  
people leverage the technology for sex, they don't want to engage with  
people that they already know.  The second notable exception is more  
intriguing: health issues.  Interestingly, even the most friend-driven  
people seem to switch to interest-driven practices when it comes to  
needing support for an illness or help in gaining information around  
said illness.  It should be noted that these are not common amongst  
teens and interest-driven practices are almost exclusively the domain  
of geeks and other socially marginalized and ostracized teens.

So, Scott, on one hand, I'm totally with you and we're both birds of  
the same ilk.  But we're also rare, which is why social technologies  
appear to get very very strange when they are adopted en masse.   
Mainstream sociable practices almost never look like early adopter  
practices. Think Usenet pre/post 95, Zephyr/ICQ->AIM, blogging pre/ 
post 04, Friendster->MySpace (although funnily enough we twist back  
with a world collision on Facebook which is a complete mess).  More  
generally, social tech is moving from primarily interest-driven to  
primarily friend-driven (Usenet, BBSs, mailing lists, boards | IM,  
blogging, SNS).  We're old skool.  <grin>

Although we geeks are very visible, it's best not to extrapolate from  
what we do if you want to get an accurate picture of what's really  
happening.  Besides, it's much more fun to run around the country/ 
world talking to everyday people about their lives.  Also, very  
humbling.  And sometimes, very depressing.

danah

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