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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What's the problem?


There's no doubt that social media has enhanced our lives, but in some respects, it's taken them over. Recently, The New York Times reported on how students are so distracted by the digital world that they're ignoring their education; it's not a great leap of logic to see how this diversion is affecting the rest of us. "I stalk people on Facebook a full two to three hours a day between my mobile feed and 15-minute breaks," says one media professional in her twenties, whom we'll call Sarah. Another FB addict, Baruch Herzfeld, owner of Traif Bike Gesheft, admits: "I used to go swimming every day. Now I don't do that because I don't have [Facebook] access in the pool. If I exercise, I go jogging or something, because that way I can access it."

This compulsion hasn't only changed our routines; it could also make us more passive. The risk is that we'll settle for catching the latest MoMA exhibit via a friend's Facebook page or substitute a YouTube video of Santos Party House for actually checking out the Dance.Here.Too. party ourselves. 

Brooklyn's Kevin Balktick, 26, an arts-events producer who throws some of the most creative and of-the-moment parties in the city, still prefers old-school interaction. "I get a hard time about not being on Facebook," he says. "But my reputation doesn't come from virtual social networking, it comes from the actual time I have spent with people and the personal experiences I create for others to enjoy." 

Even those leading the charge see a potential need to reassess. Foursquare's head of product, Alex Rainert, says his company's goal is to help New Yorkers make more informed decisions about the places they choose to visit, and he believes the urge to discover the next best thing is what drives us to social media. But even he has found himself overwhelmed. "We've heard from some users that are experiencing check-in fatigue," he says, "and I've experienced it occasionally."

NEXT: The upside

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