A lot of interesting posts today all related to the effect social media has on the tech elite. Colin Walker kicks it of with a well written essay, followed by Sarah Perez and Frederic over at the last Podcast. Each of them has had the pleasure of being totally immersed in the social media scene us techies have created for ourselves. Each of them has left this scene for a while only to discover that when they let go, the world simply moves on. While I have deep respect fro all three, I read the stuff they write on a regular basis, I can’t help but feel a bit that each of them has fallen into the same social media trap.
Twitter, Friendfeed, Google Reader, Toolu, Facebook newsfeeds, Twhirl, TechMeme, Technorati, RSS, iPhone, Blackberry, we could go on for ever. There is an enormous amount of social media services and devices available to us. Each of these “feeds” provides us with massive amounts of social stimulation. The tech elite has been experimenting wildly with them all and they yell enlightenment and salvation. After the dark ages of web 1.0, god forbid, we finally have the ability to have access to everything we want, whenever we want it. Day and night, at home or in the office, on holidays, social media follows us, even when we are sitting on a toilet (c’mone admit it, how many of you have been reading the news while..).
Actually, that isn’t quite right. It’s the opposite. The tech elite follows this social media circus. We are all sucked into this warm bath of wealthy information. Why? Because it gives us the feeling of control. It is fed by our fear of not being there when it happens. We are on top of the world, well connected, 24×7 on-line, and part of every conversation that takes place. Joining in gives us the attention of the top tech elite. Everyone joins in and all of a sudden we are equals. The Tech pop stars in conversations with us wannabees. It makes us all feel important.
Well guess what, it’s a false illusion. We are not in control because we have access to everything. We aren’t on top because we can jump on any conversation we like. Social media isn’t important because we are on it. The bare essence of the importance of social media lies in the ability to interact. But interaction is a timely thing. It is something of the here and now. It is there when you participate, and it’ll go on without you when you leave the arena. So where is the control you think you have over it? You think the world stops turning around because you aren’t there, aren’t interacting? Do you really think the most important things only happen when you are around? Are you someone that thinks every piece of content needs a “like” or a “comment”?
This social media circus has been created by our own behavior. Our desire to be “always on”. Well, let me tell you a little secret. While you are “always on” the rest of the world simply moves on. “Always on” is an illusion, brought to us by technology and the trend watchers needing to write something important to stand out. Sure, the technology provides us the “always on” capabilities. And with so many people around the world participating in content creation and interaction, there is always something important going on. But that hasn’t got anything to do with web 2.0 or social media. That’s life. With 6 Bln people on a planet there is always something going on.
And look where it gets us. The next trend in web evolution is now filtering. We now need automated tools to help us digest all this crap. There are numerous possibilities to aggregate and filter. The love baby of Silicon Valley is Friendfeed of course. And now Peter Gabriel launches a project with a title that could have easily been a bombastic pop song, “The Filter”. Each of these initiatives is providing us with yet another way of “discovering the things we like”, aggregate structure into this chaotic world of social media heaven. First we get addicted to the “always on”, and now we need filtering to ensure the right stuff gets delivered to us. But we have seen lots of cases in history where filtering of information is used to ensure people sing the same song.
Aggregation, filtering, noise reduction. The noise in web 2.0 is a tech elite’s problem. It isn’t really a problem for “regular folks”. Just because there are thousands of places where social media can be consumed that doesn’t mean people will actually go to all of these places. Aggregation and filtering do one thing for us. It makes the world flat again. It helps us all find the same stuff, makes the web an enormous echo chamber. And while numerous people like Steven Hodson have noted this many times, the tech elite doesn’t seem to care. And that is sad really.
We seem to have lost the ability to discover, to enter an adventure where we don’t know the outcome of, to enter a state of slow consumption instead of fast digestion. We have lost the ability to read lengthy and in depth essays, or books, simply because it’ll cost us to much precious time. We are into fast delivery of “breaking news”, junkies of information control. And don’t think the whole world is like that just because this tiny little part of the web the tech elite is on works like that. The rest of the world isn’t part of this rat race for information. We already have all the information we could ever need. We don’t need more of that, we need inspiration.
Social media is interaction. Interaction is timely and volatile. It is only valuable when you participate in it. But the great thing about it is that the conversation never stops. There is ALWAYS more to discover, new adventures to be lived, new friends to be made, new experiences to be gained. To do that, you have to stop running forward. You have to stop digesting and start listening. You have to stop filtering or be addicted to aggregation. You have to start discovering. Get yourself out of that social media trap. Go out there, meet fascinating people, discover new worlds. But don’t just sit back and wait for the aggregation and filtering to deliver the goodies to you. Don’t try to be there 24×7 using all the tools available. That’s just a false illusion of control.
Social media is timely, get over it!