This Toyota commercial is narrated by a young woman who gets her parents on Facebook because they supposedly are not social enough. While she scoffs at how relatively few “friends” her parents have, the parents are shown to be out living by mountain-biking some decidedly offline trails. The daughter remains confidently transfixed and anchored to the digital world of her laptop screen.
I spend lots of time on this blog pointing out what I call “digital dualism,” the fallacy of viewing the physical and digital as seperate worlds (think The Matrix). Instead, the position myself and others on this blog favor is what we call “augmented reality,” the realization that our world is one where atoms and bits come together. Read more about this idea if you want.
Enter Toyota. They are playing off the pesky social media misnomer that people are using Facebook instead of doing things offline. Research consistently disproves this zero-sum/one-or-the-other fallacy by demonstrating that those who use social media have more offline connections. They are going out and doing more. It makes sense to anyone who uses the site: what you do and who you talk to online has everything to do with what you do and who you talk to offline. That’s augmented reality.
But that does not stop news journalists, film makers and advertisers from furthering this fallacy. See Zeynep Tufekci absolutely dismantle New York Times executive editor Bill Keller on this issue over Twitter (and check out some the links to the research she posts). I’ve critiqued the film The Social Network for playing on this fallacy (Sorkin doesn’t use Facebook, and it showed in the film’s misunderstanding of the site). And now we have Toyota propagating the image of the Facebook user as one who lethargically trades offline interaction for false online connectedness. Digital dualism continues to persist.
[Unsurprisingly, Toyota’s critique of social media is disingenuous, they’ve recently created their own seocial networking service.]