Social Media is bullshit

Posted by Gina Rosenthal in social media | Tagged , | 7 Comments

I’ve been kicking this post around for several months, finally ready to write it. Before I begin, three things:

  1. Although I work for Dell, this post and in fact everything on this blog are my ideas and thoughts, not those of my employer. For my full legal disclaimer please see my About Me page.
  2. The world we live in seems pretty broken a lot of the time. One thing I think about constantly is how not to add to the broken-ness, but to try and bring things together where I can. For the last year or so, that’s meant healing some things about myself that got really broken. Maybe I will write more about that soon. At any rate – this post is written in that spirit….the spirit of helping bring things together, not the spirit of breaking anything or anyone.
  3. Mom, if you read this, sorry for the swearing.

So why is someone who has been in the forefront of using social media for the enterprise for the past four or five years saying social media is bullshit?  The way I originally felt about the promise of social media is very much the same as what Philippe Borremans expressed in his post We Need More Corporate Anarchists:

Back in the days, when social media was something organizations feared, some of us thought that it was going to be a driver in real change. Change that would not only “optimize” a business but truly empower employees to solve the toughest problems in their day to day job.

Personally I was convinced that the introduction of social tools would drastically impact traditional power structures in companies – even change the way we do business on a global scale.

That’s how I felt when I started using the new wave social media tools at work back in 2008. I’ve been a blogger since around 2003, but using other social tools such as message boards and online groups since I got online in 1997 or 1998. The power of these tools pulled me out of poverty, helped me figure out how to get a diagnosis for my daughter, and have connected me to amazing people all over the globe.

But “social media” really is a set of tools that, when used proactively, can help us satisfy our information needs by connecting us to the content and people who have access to the  information that will help fill those needs. I’m going to repeat that:

Social media is a set of tools.

And y’all better believe that the powers that be have figured this out, and they are now working (and staffing) programs to control the information you consume. They have figured out how to use this set of tools to control the message. Don’t believe me?

More and more, this is also how corporate social media works. They use the tools to control the message, not to connect with their users.

This is why I say social media is bullshit

But, the thing is, since social media is really just a set of tools, we have the power to change this.

  • Question what you read.
  • Share things that fill your information needs with others.
  • Reflect on different opinions and viewpoints, share your own.
  • Enjoy the silliness the tools can bring out – like #sharknado and other things – but remember to consume the silliness like you do cotton candy. Cotton candy ALWAYS sounds like a great idea if you haven’t had it in a while, but after a couple of bites you’ve had enough and it sorta makes you feel sick.
  • Have a couple of bites of silly, then step away from the keyboard. Read a book, call your mom,  vacuum your floors, plant something, go outside and play.

Connect with yourself, with reality. That’s what helps you have the balance required to use social media tools to connect, and not to fall for the social media plays built by others that are meant to break – and potentially bind – us all.

7 Responses to Social Media is bullshit

  1. Reflecting from time to time on what we are doing keeps us sharp. There are however a few flaws in your reasoning here.

    First of all the title: I know one needs a catchy title for more people to read it but this one doesn’t cover the load. With that I mean that you are not calling Social Media as such bullshit but one use case being abusing social media for controlling the message by the government and by extension commercial organisations.

    Although that might be true and I won’t contest that, these actions are not tied to social media as such. You said Social Media is just a tool, I say it;s just one of the tools for that use case. Controlling the message is done through all tools available. For you Americans it’s way worse than for us Europeans but less than for some middle east or far east countries. I hear more and more American friends that no longer follow your own news channels just because of that reason. And this is not something new, controlling the message exists as long as we exist. It just comes in different forms, depending on the tools available.

    Now let me change the paradigm here and thank social media for being there. I give you the opposite use case to counter yours: thank you social media for giving every single person (wth connectivity) a real voice that matters. Thank you for making it able to call those journalists bullshit, thank you for giving me the power to ask a politician straight for his/her opinion all calling them out, thank you for making it able to tell my story to anyone that wants to hear it across the world without any channels in between.

  2. ShaynaSIsrael says:

    I appreciate both of these posts. Social media is democratization at its finest–for good and for…BS

  3. Tony Nelson says:

    Love ths post, but a bit heavy handed with the labeling of it. Social media, like other tools, have been and always will be used by companies, government, etc., to control the message, craft the opinion and sell the product (or influence the vote).

    It’s up to the individual to recognize the bullcrap, investigate on their own, and turn off the switch when the crap gets to ankle level.

  4. gminks says:

    Hey Tony – I had the title in mind, and the content I had in mind was a bit more direct, but after discussing with a few people I toned it down a bit. 🙂 I do agree – these tools have and will always be used to control the message. The frustrating thing (to me) is that the tools also offer the promise to connect us all, to make things different. It just takes lots of work to tune into that signal…and I worry not everyone realizes how deliberate the noise is at this point.

  5. gminks says:

    Hans – social is a tool that you’ve learned to use. Looking forward as you fine-tune your use of them.

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