Zuckerberg Person of the Year: Is Social Media on the Decline?

Last Updated Dec 16, 2010 8:16 AM EST

Most trends follow an archetypal path. They are founded by a fringe group -- punks, goths, geeks, etc. -- scouted by mainstream purveyors, picked up by trend conscious early adopters and then gradually go global until even your uncool aunt Sally catches on. What happens then? Everyone who originally fancied themselves on the cutting edge takes one look at Sally in her harem pants or UGG boots and drops the trend in a hurry.

This week Time announced it's anointing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg person of the year, which sounds like good news for the social media megatrend. But is seeing Zuckerberg staring out from the cover of Time really the equivalent of hearing your least hip relative sing the praises of an oversaturated trend? Or to put it another way, does Zuck's Time cover mark the high-water mark of our collective obsession with digital connection and signal a new phase in which we give more cool-headed consideration to the place of gadgets in our lives?

Author Nicholas Carr rounds up some convincing evidence that those at the leading edge of tech are pulling back from omnipresent connectedness, signaling that perhaps the hysteria for social media over the last few years may be headed for a much-needed modulation:
No sooner does Time magazine place its fabled curse on the head of the Star Child than the fanboys begin to sidle toward the exits. "I've started to take one step back from the digital world," tweets Nick Bilton, the New York Times' chief tech blogger and resident future-dweller. He cops to the fact that "over the last few months, my wife and I have started to make a conscious effort to limit the use of our mobile phones during dinner or while spending time with family." Bilton is not alone in giving in to the denetworking urge. Wired columnist Clive Thompson confesses that he has begun "to completely ignore his e-mail 'from Friday night to Monday morning,' so he doesn't accidentally get involved in work and pulled away from his family." Gizmodo reporter Joe Johnson has also begun pocketing his gizmo, at least when dining out with his girlfriend: "The two allocate a few moments to check-in on Foursquare or snap a quick picture, but then put their phones away." Johnson's boss, Brian Lam, muses that "an obsession with technology can 'dilute the quality time we should spend with the people closest to us.'" Former Digg CEO Jay Adelson worries about "the increasingly damaging and fatiguing Twitter lifestyle." All this neoluddite handwringing comes amid word, from TechCrunch, that Twitter's US growth seems to be flatlining, with nary an uptick since the summer.
What do you think, has the frenzy for digital connection reached a turning point?

Read More on BNET: (Image courtesy of Flickr user Crunchies2009, CC 2.0)
  • Jessica Stillman On Twitter»

    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.

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