“We don’t need social media to make friends or build relationships.” — yes!
“We don’t need it to become active or engaged in politics.” — well, we don’t need it in the current form, which may be overkill, but it does simplify access to engagement. I don’t want to become a politician, but I do want to engage in debate and dialogue. I’m too shy to walk into the HQ of a political party and engage people live, but I would like it that when I get an idea I’d be able to put it out there and engage others on it.
“We don’t need it to explore our cities or find new things to do.” — again, not in the current form. I don’t need it to explore my city. I need it to explore other cities. Right now I’m on a business trip, spent 4 days in Amsterdam working from 9am to 8pm and I’m going to have a few hours to do something tonight. While I did ask for suggestions from our business partners, they’re people of different tastes and means. I would hate it to wander around and find something nice in the last minute when I’d be too time pressed to return to enjoy it.
“We don’t need it to hail a cab or catch a bus or fly on a plane.” — indeed
“We don’t need it to hear new music or read new books.” — beg to differ. While you could have dedicated discovery platforms, you’d always be interacting with people whose purpose is to get you engaged with their music or books. How long until those platforms are owned by the large music/books publishers? What happens to indie/wannabe authors? We throw them into the hands of the big ones? Music/reading discovery is a social activity and engaging with real people, often across the world is a very good way of doing things and that’s a social platform by excellence.
“We don’t need it to do our shopping.” — hell yeah
“We don’t need it to develop or discover subcultures or like-minded groups or to appreciate good design.” — sure, but without social platforms, your like-minded group would be limited to your geographical area. And if you do make time to engage strangers while on holiday trips (assuming you’ll get time off your usual family circles to pursue things on your own), how will you make them part of a group while back? Email? Skype? Put enough people in a Skype group and you’ve got your smaller social media.
“We don’t need it to plan our lives.” — very true indeed
“And we don’t need it to understand the world.” — well, depends on scale. The very state of social media today is a great insight into the world of humans and how they interact at scale. Russian manipulation alone provides great insight in the lengths some people go to serve their interests when occasion appears … and I don’t mean politicians or things like that. The little guy that conceives manipulating posts does it for money (let’s say), what does that say about humans?