January 20th, 2007

Demented And Sad, But Social

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There’s something about the “social” in “social media” and “social networking” and “social” everything that keeps raising my hackles, no matter how much I believe in the best elements (and intentions) of those much hyped phenomena. And it seems that I’m not alone.

From Richard Siklos at the New York Times, who objects to both the “social” and the “networking”:

Don’t get me wrong. I like people, and interacting with so many of them is one of the great pleasures of my job. And, heck, all that journalists do all day long is call people who may not want to hear from them. But that said, I have always recoiled at the use of the word “network” as a verb. I wouldn’t want to join any social networking Web site that would want me as a member. You might say that I am into antisocial networking.

Here’s Stowe Boyd on “social” PR:

School your clients to do the right thing, not just wrap themselves in a bunch of psychobabble about social interaction with their “communities” without actually adopting a new mindset.

Stowe was set off by a meeting on a proposed “social media release” format for press releases called the hRelease. Brian Solis explains constructively the genuine aims of reinventing PR for a social media world, but I can’t help thinking that much of “negative energy” here is the result of the word “social.”

There is way too much hype, way too much ideology, way too much orthodoxy, and way too many hopes, dreams, and expectations packed into this poor overused word. There are many good intentions, and real revolutions, all enabled by technology. But the discussion of everything “social” in media is starting to feel, well…maybe The Breakfast Club, that fountain of mid-80s wisdom, said it best:

Claire Standish: So academic clubs aren’t the same as other kinds of clubs.
John Bender: Ah… but to dorks like him, they are. What do you guys do in your club?
Brian Johnson: Well, in physics we… we talk about physics, properties of physics.
John Bender: So it’s sorta social, demented and sad, but social.

  • Kurt Voelker

    Scott, you'll love this - click on the "advertise here with Federated Media" link on Stowe's /Message and you get a "Plan a Campaign" tools that lets you select your target audience. Priceless. Screenshot here: http://kvoelker.blogsome.com/2007/01/24/stowe-knows-his-audience/

  • >>>Seeing all of those Breakfast Club clips reminds me just how great YouTube is for finding media company generated content.

    Heh. Exactly.

  • Scott,
    I recently gave a measurement workshop to a group of corporate-communications people trying to understand "social media." David Pogue, consumer tech columnist for the NYTimes, was the presenter after me and he also pointed out the silliness of the term "social media." I agreed with him when he noted that references to social media made him think of television sets talking to one another at a cocktail party.
    -Max

  • There is way too much hype, way too much ideology, way too much orthodoxy, and way too many hopes, dreams, and expectations packed into this poor overused word. There are many good intentions, and real revolutions, all enabled by technology.

    Yes! Social media, Web 2.0, et. al. is a bit like a whirlpool. Most of the world drifts outside of it, watching it, but not knowing exactly what's going on inside. The "social media companies" are inside the whirlpool, whooping it up, yelling what a great time it is, watching some get sucked into the abyss while a few get flung from the edges and re-enter the world at high speed. The watchers want to approach the whirlpool to get the slingshot effect but are worried about heading into the abyss. The whirlpoolers need to stop whooping from the center and see if they can get back to the edges where they can help the rest of the world catch the slingshot.

  • Brian, great video, thanks. Seeing all of those Breakfast Club clips reminds me just how great YouTube is for finding media company generated content.

    Eric, it's amazing how much "finally understanding this Internet thing" is still going on.

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