How social networks have effected our social lives and relationships today

uberlife, the location-based iOS app designed to help people hang out more frequently and spontaneously together in the real world, publishes a special interview today with Clay Shirky, the esteemed American writer on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies.

As part of uberlife’s Real Champions interview series, Shirky shared his views on the role that online social networks have played in mobilizing groups offline and how social networks have effected our social lives and relationships today.

He talks about how, since his 2008 book “Here Comes Everybody: How Change Happens when People Come Together”, the amplification of the flow of information through social networks between friends is “the single most important thing that’s happened”. Comparing Facebook and Twitter:

“Twitter is actually much, much better for information flow and for synchronising opinions or awareness between very large groups… (Facebook) is better for dense interactions between smaller groups…The big deal with the change in Facebook especially is the tension between the real and the virtual, between the online and the offline”

Talking about the next generation of services beyond online social networks:
“….one of the things we need to be looking at is how can we use social networks the way MeetUp or uberlife does to get to know people online but as a way of coordinating some real, real meeting because that is where the dense relationships are formed.”

On the value of offline networking:
“..after you have spent some time in that persons presence, the email thread takes on a different feeling, the IMs take on a different feeling because now you are communicating with someone having fleshed out something of their whole self.”

On being asked why more people are not already using technology to help them engage with each other offline, at a time when over half of the world’s population now living alone, Shirky predicts:

“…why have these tools not been used for re-socializing the urban fabric? I say the answer is give it time. You see things like uberlife, Foursquare or Meetup and you realise that we are only just at the point for a number of these technologies where we have crossed this threshold. The idea of using technology to help coordinate or improve your real world social life comes naturally to 20 year olds. For 50 year olds it still feels a little weird but again that erodes with time.”

For the full interview visit the uberlife blog

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