Sunday, July 26, 2009

Social Networking and the Puritan Work Ethic

Numerous studies have shown that Americans work more hours per week and have fewer vacation hours per year than Europeans. Many Americans (myself included although I have significantly scaled back in the last year) even work on vacation, checking their blackberries and email accounts. We are a nation of workaholics. Our culture seems to have been permanently affected by the work ethics of the Puritans who were among the early European immigrants to our shores.

Social networking ties in beautifully to the Puritan work ethic. When you are twittering or posting on Facebook, you are indeed "working" to develop your social network with people who can be tapped to help further your career. Your posts are a way to contruct your persona for people who may have little face-to-face contact with you, and instead only know what you choose to share in short bursts of information. In Italy, creating a bella figura is done through choice of clothing and accessories. In the US, it is done by tweets. Leisure activities such as going to movies, concerts, reading books and online articles, etc. can be carefully screened before tweeting to make sure that they convey the desired impression. Therefore, even in non-work time, you are working.

The sad part is that many social network posters, as commentors to my previous post have mentioned, post too much. They believe that people do want to read literally everything they do during the course of a day. Unfortunately, everyone's lives are not constantly filled with excitement and the limited amount of space allowed for posts makes it difficult for all but the best writers to make a topic such as flea control (much on my mind lately) fresh and interesting.

A year and a half ago, I spent two weeks in Italy with friends. We noticed that Italians spent very little time on their cell phones. In Venice in particular, people sat on benchs in the campos or stood in the campos chatting with one another. Even in the cafes, no one was on the phone; they did not even appear to be texting one another. They also seemed less tense and stressed than the average New Yorker. Granted that we were there at an off-peak time where the streets were empty of tourists, but we all felt that the lack of cell use was refreshing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Saw a kid texting on his (moving) bicycle today

Also a young woman having a long leisurely phone call at the bus stop ... Pay phone!

Most remarkably she had a cell phone in her other hand

And here we are blogging about them