Is social media bad for NYC?

Could our compulsive documentation of our lives detract from the experience of really living here?

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Status update: We're obsessed


"When I see others constantly tweeting, checking in and posting things to their Facebook walls, all I can think is that they're probably bored out of their minds," says Richard Blakeley, 31, editor-in-chief of Gawker.TV. "If I were living in NYC in the '50s, I'd be a modernist painter, in the '60s I would have been a documentary filmmaker, in the '70s I would have been in a punk band, in the '80s I would have made music videos," he says. "Today it's all about having a social-media presence...and that's just lame."

Indeed, you'd be hard-pressed to find a show where the first four rows aren't full of people holding up phones or cameras. "It's become part of the experience of seeing a concert now," says freelance writer Tyler Coates, 27. "Someone has to do it, right? How else am I going to find videos of the band performing live on YouTube?" One music destination that has banned audience photography (but not phone usage) during concerts is Lincoln Center. Peter Duffin, who manages the venue's social-media presence, wishes people would save it for intermission. He points to a recent concert featuring members of Icelandic band Sigur Rs at St. Paul the Apostle Church, where the audience, for the most part, managed to stay offline during the show. "When it ended, there was this hushed silence," he says. "Then there was an explosion of social media afterward. But in the moment, they were transfixed." The new dance club District 36 isn't allowing patrons to take pictures or record video inside either. "Nightlife is about experiencing the party," says Dave Kers, the venue's marketing manager. "We don't want people to hurt the party with texting or tweeting or posting Facebook pictures."

Our compulsion to document isn't limited to photos. Sarah Hepola, 36, the Culture editor of Salon, recalls the first time she and a friend went to the High Line. "The first thing she did was check in on Foursquare," Hepola says. "I was like, Really? There we were on this gorgeous day in New York, looking over the river, and that's the first thing you do?"

The food scene is a particularly attractive target for Tumblr and Facebook accounts: Amateur food pornography has become so widespread that several restaurants have cracked down on customers taking photographs of their meals. David Chang banned cameras from Momofuku back in 2008; he isn't the only one who's fed up. Heather Heuser is the co-owner and comanager of Traif, which opened in Williamsburg seven months ago. The restaurant doesn't prohibit photography at the table, but Heuser says they made a conscious decision not to take an active role in building a social-media presence. "We know who our [Foursquare] mayor is and we have a good relationship with him," she says. "But it bums me out when I see a group of four people eating, and everyone's on their phone. It's great when you take a picture of one of our bacon doughnuts, but, it's like, Come inside!"

NEXT: What's the problem?

Users say

15 comments
edgar zorrilla
edgar zorrilla

you obviously don't understand the point of social networking.

Jake
Jake

@Elk - Try your shoe on the other foot! "telling the whole world about their boring lifes" - If you do not care what they have to say, then why are they your friends and in your social network? I'm sure glad we are not friends ;b "I do like to tell my friends all over the world what kind of fun things I do - after I did them." - See your first quote...because that is what they are probably saying about you.

Mike-y
Mike-y

I think fewer people are going out because the economy sucks. Even with free/cheap events, subway and cab rides are increasingly expensive as is the price of decent food. While employment remains shaky at best for many, people are connecting to NYC arts and culture through their friend's social media posts - often opting to live vicariously in a time where many can't afford much else.

Katherine
Katherine

The rent in new york is bad for new york.

hahahahhaha gtfo
hahahahhaha gtfo

"I'm sure Sharon Steel is a very lovely, interesting person, but that Time Out article is irrelevant by about three (thousand in blog) years." via Jake on Twitter. also this was amazing. "Does anyone else feel it's ironic how many social sharing buttons appear at the bottom of this article?"

Lindsey
Lindsey

Dear Timeout New York magazine and Joe Dobias of Joedoe restaurant, I Yelp (verb). I'm a Yelper (Noun). If you don't know what that means- allow me to tell you. I write about places that I've been to on a website called Yelp.com. You could call it a review, an opinion, an acclaim or in some cases, a rant. Before the days of Yelp, Foursquare, TripAdvisor and various other experience expressing mediums you had to rely on other resources. Zagat, Michellin, Traveling books, etc- but they are only the opinions of a couple of people and chances are they were paid to write about the businesses. You could also get advice from people you knew-friends, family- and that's a great way to get information. And you could take into consideration their taste, personality and standards. But what if you didn't know anybody? Wouldn't it be great if you could get advice from a whole bunch of people?! BOOM! That's Yelp! Now recently I read in Timeout New York magazine about some business that frowned upon 'uneducated' or 'slapdash' reviewers writing about their restaurant. What? What are you talking about? How rude! The fact that I even went to your place of business you should be grateful for! And the fact that I'm telling thousands of other people about it you should be fu@*! thankful for! Sure, if your restaurant is awful then you should be worried... but guess what? You should try to fix your restaurant then! Hire some nicer servers, give the place a new paint job. I don't want to go to any awful businesses. I want to steer clear of them as much as possible. I don't want to pay for a bad experience! I want to be able to chose the best restaurants and the best food items on the menu. Don't you? Or do you want crappy food? And crappy service? I didn't think so. I work hard for my money and I don't want to squander it and give it to ungrateful and undeserving little pricks. I will always and forever yelp. But I also read Timeout, perhaps not for long, because social media is taking over and timeout magazine may soon be gone forever. Is that what you're afraid of timeout? Of becoming obsolete? You shouldn't trash on people and businesses that are with the new-social-media-program then. You should reach out and join the competition instead of insulting the foreseeable future and possibly your ultimate demise. A solution- try Buddy media. They might be able to help you out if you're worried about your impending failure. Warm regards, Lindsey

Scott Spencer
Scott Spencer

Ban Social Networking in NYC? How absurd. That's like trying to pass a law making it illegal to talk to your friends on the telephone. Social Networking in NYC has become part of the American Way and opening a window into your life to others, albeit temporarily.

techdeco
techdeco

While you do raise many good points, you like many from the desk critics of social media forget a key fact: Culture is made up of and for the people. This utopic projection of how things should be discounts the dynamic ever changing nature of culture & society.

Anonymous
Anonymous

This is hilarious.. I think Time Out NY is much worse for NY than social networking (and yes.. social media is bad for NYC.. just not as bad as TONY)

Anonymous
Anonymous

This is hilarious.. I think Time Out NY is much worse for NY than social networking (and yes.. social media is bad for NYC.. just not as bad as TONY)

Anonymous
Anonymous

I want a force field to pop out of my cell phone, too. Orange, please!

billy
billy

ahhhhh, alas we have come to the point that witty social commentators feel the absolute need and duty to whine about social media and the advances that technology have brought us...the new social ill to fear...great I wonder what's next on the "I don't care for hipsters and their lifestyles" whinefest list?

Ren
Ren

It's addicting (at the moment), extremely annoying when you are out and trying to have a conversation with your friend ( and just as annoying I am sure when you are doing it back to them)-Does it take away from the experience of being in the city? Probably. Will it last forever? No. Facebook is not as much of a priority as it once was (enter-Twitter!) Within a year or two Facebook will be the next MySpace and Twitter will take its place - and unless some other networking outlet gets huge overnight, sooner or later we will outgrow this addiction and use all of the social media & apps etc. as a resource to further explore the million things the city has to offer instead of living our lives by a status or 140 character limitation at a time. ((P.S ~ To the illustrator of this article~ Amazing work!!))

Anonymous
Anonymous

Does anyone else feel it's ironic how many social sharing buttons appear at the bottom of this article?

nettaP
nettaP

i don't think social media is hardly as big a deal as this article makes out. i don't see a problem with checking in on foursquare when you get somewhere. i do see a problem with tweeting or facebooking or texting or taking a phone call throughout the duration of something you're supposed to be experiencing. i don't take videos of concerts that i go to, but i love having the ability to videotape my friends' reactions to things like concerts afterwards. it's fun to go back and think "oh gosh, remember how that felt to be there and what it was like?" and i know that people who don't live in NYC in my social [media] circle enjoy seeing a lot of the things that i post. it's like anything else - you have to have balance. social media has completely changed the way i experience NYC, but i think it's definitely changed it for the better.