Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
February 10, 2011

Tim Fadek: Is Social Media Destroying Public Interaction?

Out of curiosity I went to the cocktail reception at the New York Public Library for the launch of Social Media Week. This is a yearly event, started in 2009, with a series of conferences to discuss trends in social and mobile media. This gathering I photographed was intended to be a social event to bring hundreds of social media executives together.  Maybe it’s a stretch, but I see irony here — guests seemed to spend more time with their phones than with each other.  This begs the question: Outside of virtual, online sociality, does Social Media make us more or less social in person?

And this was not an event where people were using their devices to actually demonstrate anything. Instead, the majority of guests were tweeting what was going on at the party. When I went up to people, many would ask who I was shooting for, then ask for my twitter name and immediately tweet it. Bing.

I probably did more talking than anyone else.  I went up to one women, teasing: “Hey, you don’t have a ring on your finger. Why don’t you talk to that guy.”

“Oh, he’s busy.”

There were so many people like this guy at the little round table. People would go off in the corner with their iPhone or Blackberry, the body language saying they couldn’t care less to be at a reception.

Everyone at this event was holding a smartphone.  Whether they were talking to someone or not. An interesting thing is how much the device for many people serves as appendage, the modern equivalent of a blanket, a transitional object.

This last photo really captures everything I’m talking about.  Here was a great opportunity for execs and entrepreneurs to get together and they were mostly in their own little cubicle, these two people completely encapsulated in their respective spaces.

— Tim Fadek

PHOTOGRAPHS BY TIM FADEK — More Tim Fadek at The Bag.

About the Photographer

Tim Fadek

Timothy Fadek is based between New York and Berlin. He began his career in photography at 28, after having worked in advertising. He is represented by Redux Pictures. His key bodies of work to date have included conflict coverage in Iraq, Lebanon, Haiti, Macedonia, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, in addition to post-conflict coverage in Kosovo, the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, presidential elections in Venezuela, Mexico and the United States, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, social issues such as the murders of women in Juarez, Mexico, the population explosion in Chongqing, China, foster care in New York, and most recently, the effects of the gold rush in Mongolia.

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