Is pruning our online lives some type of game?

It is as inevitable a part of growing up as broccoli or homework, and has been for years in our social circles.  Psychologists call it “socioemotional selectivity theory.” Today, we call it “defriending.”  While the pruning of our social branches has always gone on, the recent explosion of social networking sites such as Facebook brings new considerations to light, as the New York Times writes:

Thanks to Facebook, the concept of “defriending” has become part of the online culture. With a click of a mouse, you can remove someone from your friends roster and never again see an annoying status update or another vacation photo from a person you want out of your life.

Sites like Facebook have, effectively, reduced our once complex series of conversations and social interactions to a series of performatives carried out by merely clicking buttons.  Social networks have even infiltrated the world of videogames, with sites like Raptr. As games become more and more prevalent, especially with games like Mass EffectDragon Age, and Don’t Take It Personally Babe, It Just Aint Your Story including (or even centering around) creating and maintaining relationships, it isn’t a far cry to think that soon our social lives, like most everything else, will be digitized for us.

But should the notion that we are effectively gamifying our relationships be viewed positively or negatively? While the argument can be made that we’re avoiding potentially uncomfortable social situations by hiding behind a screen, it could also be said that our social networks help to keep us honest. After all, while one can avoid a former friend for weeks or even months without having to admit to the tension, defriending someone on Facebook is a very public and undeniable act.  

As technology continues to ensconce itself in our daily lives, it will be interesting to see how and if our society will lean more towards further gamification, and if we’ll ever have to see the day when we’re rewarded with ‘Achievement Unlocked: Invited Coworkers to Lunch.”

[via New York Times]

-Patrick Lindsey