Sometimes you don’t want to leave any comments on a Blog, respond to a Twitter message, update your Facebook status or Digg a news item. Sometimes, you just want to consume. Just sit back and float through these new digital channels and let everything wash over you without being an active participant. Just like the way it is with mass media.
There seems to be a common rule of thumb that says you have to be an active participant to benefit from Social Media. That the true power of the interactive channel is just that: the interactivity of it all. Some people think they have nothing valuable to add. Some people feel like it’s not about what they add, create or contribute but rather what they consume that matters most.
Who are we to judge?
Is there anything wrong with having your Google Reader stacked with a river of Blogs, news feeds and personal opinions that you read through instead of watching TV (or while you’re watching TV)? What’s wrong with never contributing? What do you think is the percentage of people who actually comment here on this Blog versus those that simply float through to read what’s going on (or those who read it in their news reader and never physically come to the site at all)? Personal confession: as more and more channels get added into the mix (like Twitter and FriendFeed) and the amount of quality Blogs continues to rise, it’s hard enough to even find the time to subscribe and keep up with them all, let alone contribute and add value.
It’s not an attitude thing… it’s a time thing. There’s just too much great content out there to absorb and not enough time to enjoy it all… and that’s a good thing.
Maybe we need to drop the success metric of how many people comment on a Blog posting, tweet or comment on an item in FriendFeed, and maybe we just need to look at the overall health and stature of these individual online social spaces as a metric of success (whatever that means). As more and more channels are created, and more and more content creators are coming into the fold, it’s becoming apparent that success is not the amount of people who are taking part but rather the quality of the content – which could be what the creator is publishing, what the comments from the community are, a combination of the two or not. Confused? Don’t be. These channels are maturing, it’s bringing in a whole new form of content creators, and their attitude towards being able to publish on the fly are very different from the people who have been at it since the beginning.
But what if we forget about the content creators and focus on what the people want?
Maybe your Blog, your Twitter, your FriendFeed and your Facebook are not about what the community contributes, but rather the high-value of the content is enough to suffice your readers. There’s simply nothing more to add. That, coupled with the notion that as more and more people start treating the Internet like any other media channel, we all have to expect their interaction to be somewhat similar to how they use the other channels. Meaning: they’re going to float through, take what they can/want and move on. Would Seinfeld have been that much funnier if the viewers were also active participants?
What do you think? Is it ok for people to be engaged in these channels as just consumers and users or are they missing point?