By Robert Pease, Pipeline Performance Practice Lead for Heinz Marketing
So maybe I am joining a growing chorus around the negative impact that social media has brought to our existence including Sean Parker of Facebook fame talking about how it exploits human psychology, Chamath Palihapitiya also formerly of Facebook describing how it is ripping our social fabric apart, Jeff Nolan with “End Social Media Co-Dependency.” Mark Suster with “One Small Change I Made that Improved My Mental State” and Brad Feld with “Did Tech Companies Ever Have Our Best Interests at Heart.“
People much smarter than me but all feeling the same thing…
I have a unique relationship with social media having extended my blogging efforts to it early on then working with a company (Gist) that was focused on bringing social media into the lives of business professionals as a sort of multi-dimensional CRM. The more connections the better across as many platforms as possible. Connect and change the world was our rallying cry. Gist got acquired by BlackBerry and was assimilated into obscurity but social media marched on.
My first blog was titled Reply to All circa 2005 and I named it that because I thought of posting on the Internet as the ultimate reply to all action for all the world to see. I enjoyed writing for several years but other distractions and priorities took hold and I stopped – a common outcome for well-intentioned blogging efforts.
What has continued is my social activity so in a way I continued replying to all…just in shorter form with tweets, Facebook updates, Linkedin shares and more recently Instagram images. I treated Twitter as two separate streams – personal and business with two handles to support that approach. Reply to All and RobertCPease.
The personal handle is dormant and my Facebook updates have mostly ceased favoring Instagram to share meaningful snapshots of life with a smaller group but still publicly posted, RobertCPease for business and college football (Georgia Bulldogs!) content supported by a continued professional presence on LinkedIn. I’ve tried and failed at SnapChat and still do try to tinker with anything new especially around the inbox and professional connectivity.
Long a fan of “lifecasting” as us old timers call it, social media has taken a decidedly dark and negative turn. Maybe it is where it is in the adoption cycle that brings out such things. No one shares the bad things, we’ve become addicted to self-reinforcing social gestures and the underlying platforms DO NOT have the users best interests as a priority. They shouldn’t because users don’t pay. Companies, causes, governments, etc. do and are accessing and leveraging these social platforms for good and bad.
I have no idea who did what in this past election but I do know that anyone with a budget and a message can target at a level unheard of 10 years ago along not just traditional demographic segmentation criteria but the data mined from the behavior on the platforms. That survey you took? Part of your profile and can be used to target. That post you liked, that cause you support, that emotional reaction you had? All part of the data and all for sale. How to prepare and educate my children about this environment is constantly on my mind. Great to stay connected but how to defend against sinister motivations?
Look, I’m not part of the tin hat crowd and do believe that transparency in living isn’t all bad. But the artificial lives we broadcast, the emotional toll that takes on others on these platforms, and the checks being cashed to take advantage of us all give me pause at this point.
Social media infancy was amazing in terms of new ways to connect with anyone anywhere. More information, more connectivity, more perspectives.
We seem to have entered social media adolescence. A bit rebellious, pushing the envelope, not always making the right decisions that can end up hurting others. People hide behind keyboards or screen names and say things to people that no one would or should say in real life. The current political climate in the United States is an example of this. Holy smokes people. Maybe this will mature us…or maybe not.
What will social media adulthood look like and will we have the ability to actually mature to that point? I don’t have that answer.
I do know that at the Defrag conference last November at its 10th and final gathering, API evangelist Kin Lane gave a talk on his life and what had happened negatively with too many inputs, too much to consume, too much to react to and the physical and emotional toll. He spoke of a boundary or force field that he now uses to protect himself and filter inputs. Like a lot of things I’ve learned at Defrag and from founder/organizer Eric Norlin, this crowd is ahead of trends. We’ve gone from a room full of laptops with TweetDeck on them in 2008 to protection and self-preservation eight years later. A fast and vicious transformation.
Like Mark Suster, I have deleted Facebook from my phone, am working to wean myself off my Twitter feed including removing negative or emotional inputs and focusing more on connected lives for a budgeted amount of time daily. I even aspire to write more for me and this post is part of that.
If you like it, great. If you want to share it, great. If you want to talk to me about it in real life even better. I will continue to share things important to me in the spirit of “Reply to All” but with a more guarded and intentional approach.
Connect with meaningful people and organizations, appreciate what they share, keep in touch and even strengthen relationships that could have waned due to changing locations, jobs, or lives.
Real life is the best life even though it can be hard, messy, exhilarating, rewarding and full of joy all in the course of a day or week. Those who care about you will appreciate the journey and those are the people who matter most. Relish face-to-face conversations that challenge your opinions and biases or even just voice to voice interactions. Don’t hide behind a keyboard, a false or incomplete narrative, or self-reinforcing network of “friends, fans, and followers.”
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