Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Stay Humble, Bloggers: Superficiality and Social Media

Many of you know I am a huge lover, enthusiast and advocate of all things social media. Still, sometimes even I have gripes about its various aspects.

The Web never sleeps, which makes being an active and engaged social media player practically a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week job. It's not enough to maintain your own blog, but you are also expected to be a blog commenter and a Twitter player, participating in conversations and discussions. And while I love blogging, reading others' blogs and tweeting at all hours of the night, sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming.

As Commencement looms nearer and the end-of-semester crunch is upon me, I've been succumbing to a greater degree of stress lately. This past weekend, I decided to take some social media time off, making a quick little getaway to Maine, sans technology. It was just what I needed, but even when I returned, I felt a sort of unspoken pressure to play catch-up in the blogosphere.

This leads me to discuss my biggest social media pet peeve: its element of superficiality. It seems like everywhere you turn, we bloggers are screaming,

"Look at me! Look at me! Look what I've done."

We're out and about, trying to promote our latest content: blog posts, applications, podcasts. Don't get me wrong - I'm definitely a perpetrator. You can find me and my accomplishments all over the Web - LinkedIn, Del.icio.us, Facebook, Twitter, my blogs, etc. - all aggregated on my Social Media Resume. Heck, wasn't that last sentence exactly representative of the type of shameless self-promotion I'm talking about?

It makes sense. If you spend a great deal of time creating content, wouldn't you want people to read/listen/watch it? Still, while I have no doubt about my self-promotion's help in establishing my personal brand and helping me secure my post-graduation job, I can't help but feel like a bit of a braggart sometimes. This bothers me, because the last way I want people to view me is pretentious.

I completely agree that being an active member of the blogosphere encourages the fundamentals of social media. It's when people take it to the extreme that I get bothered. Twitter should not be a popularity contest - who cares if you have 6,387 followers? And personally, I don't think it makes sense to surf the blogosphere with the goal of commenting on ten people's blogs in a given day. It's one thing if something they say is thought-provoking. It's another if your comments are forced for the sole purpose of getting your name out there. This "popularity contest" I speak of reminds me of middle school-age behavior, which weren't exactly the most mature years for a lot of people.

In a nutshell, I think much of the superficiality I've witnessed in the blogosphere lately completely contradicts the transparent ideals social media champions. I hope it starts to anger bloggers in the same way flogs have, and I hope authenticity prevails.

Stay humble, bloggers!


Sarah Wurrey said...

I think the echo-chamber tendenecies, the self congratulation and the superficial nature of the Web will always be there, and we'll all be guilty of it at times. I think it's striking the right balance between self-promotion and interaction that is the key. We all want to be able to tweet our blog posts without feeling like we're just tooting our own horns, and as long as that's not all we use Twitter or other platforms like it for, then I think we're ok! :)

James Connors said...

I agree - it's about balance. When you're in a job interview, you need to be able to talk about what you've done but not brag. It's the same way. A lot of our passive promotion is merely putting the links there for others to follow.

However, when we go overboard and try to force it out, as you said, that's when I really have a hard time with the way that the blogosphere works. It's important that we all understand these points and remember to stay humble - love it!

PS - getting past this captcha is killing me!

Sneezy said...

There are two basic ideas around the word social, no matter the definition picked: 1) communication, 2) people. I think there is a third most people overlook: trust.

The power of social media is the building of trust. Consider Sarah Lacy's recent post on why people trust chat rooms over bloggers. The "look at me" type of activity, I think, are advertisements to get a chance at something more from a blogger. They are no more wrong than television commercials. Personally, I love that my TiVo allows me to easily skip commercials. :)

Bloggers struggle with getting themselves read as they are too busy getting themselves recognized over putting together content worthy of trust.

Kevin said...

Not to merely "me too" on Sarah's comment, but I think it's part of the personal/social nature of the media we're playing with. Humility is key, but sprinkled with some transparent self-promotion is not the end of the world.

Which reminds me, I just wrote a blog post about this very topic...just kidding. :-)