How Spooky Is Social Media?
June 2, 2012 Leave a comment
In a recent opinion article for CNN, Andrew Keen, a British-American entrepreneur, professional skeptic and author of “The Cult of the Amateur,” and “Digital Vertigo,” warns us about the dangers not only of Facebook, but with our growing obsession with social media. (Opinion: Facebook threatens to “Zuck up” the human race) He describes it as digital narcissism, a narcotic, that is defining and desensitizing us.
In his article he quotes, Sherry Turkle, Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who says there is a “shift” from an analog world in which our identities are generated from within, to a digital world in which our sense of self is intimately tied to our social media presence.”
Keen explains that our capacity for solitude and an inner sense of self is quickly fading and being replaced by an external sense of who we are and how we are valued. Scary stuff, mainly because it’s true. Don’t get me wrong, I think that Facebook, Twitter and the other social media sites are great communication tools – for marketing tools. They are tailor made to help build and brand, sell a product and build a business, but the trouble is most people use them to build personal relationships. Or believe they are building personal relationships. Most people are selling themselves using social media and not their company or products and by doing so are losing any authentic sense of who they are.
So what’s the secret to learning how to effectively utilize social media? Understand what it can and can’t do. Social media is great for staying in touch, but not so hot for being in touch. It’s a great promotional tool, perfect for communicating information about your company product, service or cause, but it’s a poor substitute for real personal connection or communication. Again, it’s an amazing promotional tool, perfect for PR and marketing, but it is not so great as a communication tool.
If you want to get the word out about your product, social media is a great way to do it. But you are not a product, you are a person – deal with it! If you want to connect with someone you care about, how about picking up the phone and talking, or (here’s a strange idea) actually getting together and meeting face to face. Social media has very little inflection, or nuance, you don’t hear the person’s voice; you don’t see his or her facial expression or body language. It’s a strange static form of expression.
But people seem to forget that and believe they are actually connecting. They feel if they’re not on social media, they’re missing out, they’re not good enough, or stranger yet, they feel they don’t actually matter. It’s spooky stuff. The trick is to use social media for what it is. Have fun with it; use it as a marketing tool, use it to set up face to face meeting, then get off of Facebook or Twitter – and go outside and play!