Is Social Media Actually Making Us Less Connected?

Posted by

Barry Siskind

Community Manager


The editors at Mashable reported on an interesting TEDTalk conference facilitated by MIT professor Sherry Turkle. The premise of her talk is that social media and technology while allowing us to stay in contact,  is doing so at the price of real conversations. This, according to professor Turtle “Will have some serious consequences for our relationships, our self-perceptions and our emotions.”



While the research has shown a huge jump in the world’s acceptance of texting,  social media has the potential -if left unchecked – of making the human race less social. People who text can project an identity that they have edited unlike a face-to-face conversation which is largely unscripted and lets people see us – warts and all.


Also with the ever present smart phones at our fingertips Turkle said,  “We’re only paying attention to the things we want to pay attention to. And that leaves us increasingly disconnected from our friends, family and co-workers as we simply turn  our devices off when a conversation no longer interests us.”


We in the exhibition industry understand the value of face-to-face communication and yet we face an ever increasing frustration in trying to convince the public that we are  important and relevant.


Turtle’s recommendation is “for us to have a more self-aware relationship with technology. And in turn, we should do things like create sacred places at home and at work where we leave the devices out.”


This is a strategy that the exhibition world should consider. Would it make us look like Luddites? Perhaps, but what’s the alternative?


I’m not sure what the answer is, but connectivity has become a way of life and unless we as an industry face this issue we run the risk of becoming obsolete. If that ever happened the world would be a sorry place.



5 Responses to Is Social Media Actually Making Us Less Connected?

  1. Antony says:

    By the way, and my pedant hat is firmly in place here, it’s worth making the distinction between Social Media and Social Networking. Turkle uses the terms interchangeably but that’s not the case. She referring to Social Networking, rather than Social Media. Social Networking is the one that tempts you to lose your actual friends to your online ‘friends’!

    “Social media is a way to transmit, or share information with a broad audience. Everyone has the opportunity to create and distribute. All you really need is an internet connection and you’re off to the races.

    “On the other hand, social networking is an act of engagement. Groups of people with common interests, or like-minds, associate together on social networking sites and build relationships through community.”

    Check out for more on that…

    • barrysiskind says:

      Thanks Anthony. I absolutely agree that there needs to be a distinction between social media and social networking. All two often the two are referred to interchangeably. But the real issue for our face-to-face industry is to ensure that what we are attempting to maintain (relationships) doesn’t get lost in the information clutter.

  2. Antony says:

    Such a valid topic Barry. I believe social media serves a very different purpose from conventional connection. It allows us to get our views across, pitch our ideas and introduce, but truly engage? Not likely. To paraphrase Turkle, the fact you can’t simply walk away from a physical conversation mid-way through without good reason is what makes it a truly two-way (engaging) experience. You’re committing yourself to engagement and socialising in the truest sense. Social media is only an approximation of that using existing technologies. It’ll no doubt change we develop new technologies (3D personal projection anyone – or perhaps the mind melds practiced by Star Trek’s Spock?) but that’s a fair jump from LinkedIn.

    That said, it allows for broadcast and introduction on a level not possible in physical space. The popularity of my website owes much to the ability to take stories out to the wider community, rather than an expectation that people will make routine visits to the homepage.

    But whatever your views, there’s no excuse for getting on your Facebook or LinkedIn account while in good company. Is there any better argument for Turkle’s view than the image of a couple sat together on a sofa silently attending to their various virtual network?

    As for people who spend most of their meal on their Blackberry, well they should be forced by law to pick up the bill…

  3. Nick says:

    HI Barry,

    I don’t think the exhibitions industry is at risk from technology at any time soon.

    I think that while we’re still getting to grips with social media, and how we can use it to enhance visitor and exhibitor experience at exhibitions – we shouldn’t be thinking about how to shut it out..

    Tesi Baur gave a great presentation on Social Media at the Asia Seminar in Shenzhen a few weeks ago. Details to access it below:

    For UFI members, please note that the presentations can also be accessed in the password protected member’s area of UFI’s website at any time with no expiry date.

    For those accessing from outside mainland China, you may download all available presentations from this link: (this link is valid until 20 March 2012)

    For those accessing from mainland China, you may download all available presentations from this link: (this link is valid until 31 March 2012)


    • barrysiskind says:

      Thanks Nick. I tend to agree that technology and the exhibition industry are in their early stages of learning how to live with each other. But I think it’s important to see how technology has grown in other areas and then keep those lessons top of mind for our industry. Thanks for the reminder of and link to Tesi Baur’s presentation. What I hope this reminds us of is the need to keep our mind’s open and to continue the dialogue.

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