Dad's Wisdom: Does Online Social Networking Drive Us Apart? / by Nate Westheimer

I give a lot of credit to my dad for encouraging my intellectual pursuits. He's a thinker (sometimes an over-thinker, I tease), and I like to think he passed that on to me. (In the introduction to my senior thesis, I explained how his Ph.D. dissertation turned me on to sociological inquiry.) Anyway, here's an excerpt from an email he sent me in response to my recent post about Google's Social Graph API:

From a tech/business venture/pure "wee hee" standpoint, this is all it's amazing and fun. From a social commentary standpoint I wonder. I just can't help but thinking that the spiral race we are running -- e-networking chases social isolation chases e-networking chases... -- is approaching escape velocity and that we increasingly find ourselves "bowling alone" as it were, the more "connected" we get. When Samuel F.B. Morse sent his first long distance telegraph message, it read: "What hath God Wrought" (Citing the Bible, of course). He knew that something very big was afoot -- something beyond his control. Today, we plow ahead without even that much self-awareness. While I Know we have no choice, I often ponder, to paraphrase the Hagaddah: How manifold are the ways that we drive ourselves apart!

While I hope my work isn't driving all of us apart, I believe my dad may be on to something here. This is why I praise Scott Heiferman's Meetup approach. Use online to bring people together offline. That's big.