"Just because you can, it does not mean that you should." It’s a great line, and it’s a truism more and more people engaged in Social Media might want to take to heart.
One of the more pivotal moments in Social Media for me happened during a conversation I had with David Weinberger (co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto and author of Everything Is Miscellaneous and Small Pieces Loosely Joined) a few years back. At some point, Weinberger mentioned that people should publish anything and everything to the Web and that was the whole point of this "thing" we call Social Media or Web 2.0 or whatever (yes, cat blogs and mentions that you’ve just had a slice of pizza included). Prior to hearing him say that, my counsel to clients was always focused on making sure you have something unique to say, something original to add to the conversation… a new take on your industry.
In that moment, everything changed.
Weinberger was right, the tools, channels and platforms beg for everybody to contribute. They can do it in text, audio, images and video and they can do it in long-form content or in short 140 character bursts. But, what if you don’t have anything to say (either something interesting or something totally banal)? Or, better yet, what if you’re simply not comfortable in saying anything at all? What if it’s concerning to you to have certain people reading and commenting on what’s inside your noggin?
It is not essential to be publishing your life online.
Seth Godin always says, "your mileage may vary," and he’s right (he usually is). So, when something gets as popular as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have, the pending backlash is always present and to be expected/anticipated. Welcome to that, specific, moment in time. In business books and newspaper articles, the Social Media backlash has begun. People unplugging, deleting their accounts and becoming more transfixed with their perception of reality over constantly having to update everything online (…and it’s not just Miley Cyrus we’re talking about).
Welcome to Social Media suicide.
"… a small but determined movement of once-committed Internet gadflies who are redefining their relationship with social media to protect their privacy. Some are pulling out completely – sometimes with the help of social media ‘suicide’ programs – while others are simply creating new accounts under pseudonyms with smaller networks of close friends… ‘The initial excitement is wearing off,’ said Hal Niedzviecki, a Toronto author and documentary maker and early social-media enthusiast. He once posted comments about his work, family and daughter several times a day to more than 2,700 friends on Facebook and Twitter. He did it to draw attention to his work, but he has grown uncomfortable with the constant exposure. ‘You get the sense that you’re someone else’s entertainment. Your life is a product and that to me is a frightening idea.’"
We can afford to lose the few who don’t find the value.
Sure, there are four hundred million people on Facebook, but it’s still not everyone. There are people who are sensitive about what they say (and who they say it to). There will be folks who simply don’t feel like they express themselves well in these types of platforms, but beyond that we can’t look at the those who are offing themselves from Social Media as some kind of trend or generalized threat to its legitimacy. The Internet is not a fad, and while Jaron Lanier makes some very interesting and compelling points in his new book, You Are Not A Gadget, these tools, channels and platforms are allowing those who are more social to inter-connect, exchange and explore a whole lot more (and in ways we never could).
For some, publishing online won’t work. For others, publishing online is the greatest invention since the printing press.
What’s your take?