Twitter is to humans as….grooming is to primates?
As I argued in Transforming Behaviour Change (see ’attention’ in chp 5) I think new technologies pose important questions about how we regulate our attention. However, I also think the issue is important enough to tread cautiously about one’s claims….there may be complex things to understand that might be lost if we lash out too generically, without grounding our concerns in evidence, or (even) arguiing from our own personal experience.
I therefore feel a bit ambivalent about the recent Twitter v Susan Greenfield debate. I symapathise with Greenfield’s desire to say ‘let’s be a bit careful about the impact technology has on our brains, our attention, and our relationships’, but I don’t think she does the case any favours by making the argument as it it were self-evident that such impact was largely negative. It also harms her case that she has little or no experience of social media, and- somewhat like Dawkins with religion-shows few signs of empathy or understanding for those who do.
I found it hard to imagine why anybody would want to use a mobile phone, until I had a mobile phone. And more recently I couldn’t imagine myself tweeting until I started…tweeting. Now that I do, I can see why twitter is anything but anti-social, and by no means replaces or impedes offline social relations.
With this in mind, I enjoyed the following thoughtful piece on conversation by Sophie Scott. In a sense, twitter is merely a form of conversation, and conversation is vital for human beings to create and strengthen social bonds. The analogy is a bit of stretch, but replying to a friend’s tweet serves a similar function to primates grooming each other….
And now that I have written this, I had better go and tweet about it…before having a phone call, a face-to-face meeting with a colleague, sending a few emails, enjoying a drink with a friend, and then some quality time alone.