What The Internet Hasn't Changed

TED interviews Nicholas Christakis, who recently gave a talk on how our social networks affect us:

Talk to your grandmother or your great-grandmother and ask her how any best friends she had when she was a girl. And, she might say, “I had one or two really best friends, and three or four close friends -- we had a circle of five girls.” Ask a young girl that question today and you’ll get the same answer. Now, the young girl today will also have all kinds of other social interactions, but the fundamental reality of our interest in having close social relationships really hasn’t changed.

What constrains or enables the capacity of human beings to work in groups is not so much the technology, but rather the capacity of the human brain to have and monitor social interactions. So you can make interactions between different pairs of people more efficient, and there’s no doubt modern technologies have done that, but what really limits our abilities to interact with each other and to influence each other is a more fundamental requirement. Social media and the Internet haven’t changed our capacity for social interaction any more than the Internet has changed our ability to be in love or our basic propensity to violence, because those are such fundamental human attributes.