Yes and no. You, as the user of social media, have to make it high quality, so it becomes a ‘yes.’ If not, as a social media ‘reader’ you are being influenced however a particular platform organically happens, and you’re leaving its inherent ‘wisdom of the crowd’ to chance.
(If you don’t use or care about social media, feel free to skip the rest of this post.)
If you are a social media user, you may have noticed that it was missing from my list of Deliberate Inputs shared two days ago. That too, was deliberate on my part, for I’m currently re-thinking my own time given to using social media, and I’m in the process of tweaking the accounts I do use. One by one, I’m slowly questioning and reviewing all of them, starting with the ones you see linked for you up in my Talking Story header (LinkedIn, Tumblr, Twitter). It’s turning out to be a longer process than I’d anticipated, however it’s good to discard auto-pilot regularly, question your habits, and think these things through.
You remember that bit about habits don’t you? (The Riddle.) You are your habits, so make them good!
At the bare minimum, ‘tweaking usage’ in social media means two things to me: How I listen at a platform, and how I speak up (updates).
You may recall this starting for me back in July, when I removed the Managing with Aloha group from LinkedIn, and took a digital holiday (I’ve actually been taking several of those holidays!) As of this writing, LinkedIn is simply an online business card I’m keeping current for others who might look for me there, and nothing else; I’m not actively using it in any meaningful way. I do continue to update Tumblr, Twitter, and Flickr.
And then there’s social media’s newest darling, Google+: A good amount of cheering can be heard from its growing legion of fans. VC Fred Wilson for one, has written “Why I’m Rooting For Google+”. The whole Circles thing is intriguing to me as opposed to ‘friending’ (more on that momentarily), and to those of you who have sent me invites, mahalo — please know they are on hold for me, for I don’t want to jump into a new ballgame until I’ve done the sorting out of my old ones as I’m about to explain. While I’m on the subject of account choices, I still don’t use Facebook, and I’m not planning to.
Social Media requires deliberate intention
First of all, we users have to understand that free social media platforms aren’t actually free: We may not pay for them with currency, but we do pay with our clicks and updates. Here’s a short post by Marco Arment commenting on Twitter, where he explains that users shape developer ad targets: We aren’t a platform’s customer. We’re their research team.
Adding ‘apps’ to the mix, is another way we might use a platform with someone else’s influence added onto it as another layer” However, as Patrick Rhone asks here: Isn’t the web enough? In my own usage I’ve discarded the apps I’d tried out before (an example would be Hootsuite for Twitter), and gone back to a web-only/platform-pure practice, using my smartphone apps only when I travel (or for other reasons that aren’t connected to social media: Killer Apps).
The arguments can be made: “But I like the social conversations, and the online stretch across geographic boundaries.” And, “Isn’t the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ timely, and thus something I should pay attention to?” Social for social sake is very valid: I wonder about those things too, not wanting to levy my judgments too quickly, particularly in regard to crowd-sourcing (for as you know, I prefer face-to-face or voice-to-voice conversations, and talking story here on the blog). Twitter in particular, handily beats most news media in alerting me of events as they happen. And I readily admit there’s an element of pure play with social media, which is certainly not a bad thing. Stowe Boyd once said, “Twitter is about hope and love, although the casual observer might miss that completely.”
So, let’s get that hope and love, and the deliberate optimism of positive expectancy. We, as users, can tweak our usage enough to make it truly useful and relevant to our more fervent interests: We can program social media to be deliberate versus distracting (or distressing). There is no doubt that social media can be incendiary: So what kind of fire does it start for you, and are you okay with the burn of that fire?
For instance, one way I believe social media ‘programming’ to be broken, and horribly so, is with ‘friending’ and ‘following.’ In my opinion, both words have been tarnished within the framing of social media, for they’ve become quite the numbers game, and are more about marketing, broadcasting, and a dysfunctional attempt at branding visibility (i.e. manufacturing popularity perceptions.) So within my current tweaking, I’ve largely discarded the ‘friending’ association of following in favor of better curation instead, so my social media streaming will influence me in the best possible way when I am reading those streams, and listening in. As Maria Popova (aka the brain picker) explains:
Twitter is quickly evolving into a superb way to discover fascinating content you normally wouldn’t have, by following interesting people who tweet with great editorial curation. The key, of course, is exercising your own curatory judgment in identifying said interesting people.
I feel the same way about Tumblr (listening), and continue to love using Ho‘ohana Aloha for my finds (speaking up) when Twitter’s 140 characters just won’t do.
So to wrap this up, if you think of yourself as one of my friends — in what the word is supposed to actually mean — and I’m not following you, please don’t be offended, for I’m no longer associating my friendships with social media, but with interesting curation, following (and un-following) in a way which may seem random to you: Don’t read anything into it, for even I can’t adequately explain the roads I travel when my value of ‘Ike loa kicks into high gear! I just slip-slide into that slick rabbit hole of joyful learning and enjoy the journey.
I’m trying to speak up in a more interesting way of ‘editorial curation’ for others too, and tweet or tumble what I think will be interesting to anyone following me. If you follow me, and I haven’t followed back, it’s because I just can’t keep up with the numbers game on social media, nor do I want to. You’ll have to get my attention in another way (and that usually happens with great conversation.) I demand the same from myself, and do not expect followership from you simply as reciprocity, for at its best, following is not a passive activity, is it. I love playing around with numerology and measurement, but social media is not a factor in that study, not for me.
Any more thoughts on this?
Let’s talk story… I was thinking the weekend was the best time, if any.
We talked about learning curation last summer too, quite the delicious concept… I wonder what it is about these 3rd quarter months that triggers it.
“Creating a ‘learning organization’ is only half the solution. Just as important is creating an ‘unlearning organization’. To create the future, a company must unlearn at least some of its past. We’re all familiar with ‘learning curve’, but what about the ‘forgetting curve’ ”“ the rate at which a company can unlearn those habits that hinder future success?”
~ Dr. C. K. Prahalad
Good Morning Austin by Thomas Hawk, on Flickr