Monday, July 27, 2009

Feeling uneasy

I mentioned having signed up for Twitter the other day, and wow is that ever a busy place. Plus, you can follow (link one way) with some pretty big and celebrity named people. I am following Brent Spiner. In case you don't know him, he starred as Commander Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation. He has done a bunch of other movies and stage work, but for me he will forever be Commander Data. Well, he has over 780,000 followers. Wow, that is amazing. What that means is over 780,000 people are reading his "What are you doing" posts. That, you see, is the premise of Twitter. Short, and straight posts that say what one would currently be doing, and to some degree it is Ok to be open about what is happening ... "going out to grab a burger at Wendy's" or, "Sitting in class, and it sucks." That last one is my personal favorite, I happen to know the person that posted it.

So, Brent Spiner has over three-quarters of a million followers. Guess how many he is following, and this is straight from Twitter because it shows the numbers and contact information on all followers and following contacts. (Following is the other half of the Twitter equation, I follow you and you reciprocate by following me.) Brent is following five people. That is correct, five people. One of those he follows is Wil Wheaton, he also of Star Trek: TNG as Wesley Crusher. Another is LaVar Burton, also of Star Trek: TNG as Commander Geordie LaForge. I have not looked at other celebrities, but is this not illuminating? That many people care to read Brent Spiner's mundane one-line posts about the daily stuff he is doing. Wierd is just a not big enough word for this phenomena. Somebody in a Psychology doctoral program ought to be doing a study about this, it is just that wierd.

Now, having opened this bucket of worms, let's think about this social media stuff. What is the biggest thing going there? Marketing is the short, and to-the-point answer. Almost everyone there is trying to sell something to everyone else. Nearly every post is set with a hacked URL that will lead anyone that clicks it to a website that is either an opt-in page to get your email address, a landing page with stuff to buy, or a membership website they want you to join and start paying a monthly membership fee.

I am beginning to feel like I did back when I did the job in Indonesia. We went to Bali for our mid-rotation break, a long weekend away from the mine, and stayed in a nice hotel getting a lot of sleep and eating good food. Well, we took a taxi to the shopping strip to look for stuff to buy and bring home on the next rotation. Oh my goodness, when we alighted from the taxi about 50 local guys started trying to convince us to go to the store for which they were front men. My work mate and I were being grabbed by both hands and our arms, with incessant chatter to "follow me," and "no, with me here I have better shop for you." We finally broke loose and ran into a shop and just stood there trying to figure out how to evade them. We eventually gave up and ran to a taxi and told the driver to take us to our hotel.

On the way there the driver started asking us what we wanted, and trying to arrange to take us to the store he was fronting. When I got back to the hotel, I made myself a promise ... stay there and rest and then go back to the mine. No more shopping for me.

The parallel is that our social media sites have devolved into the same kind of behaviors. I am on Facebook, My Space, Linked In, and now Twitter. All are corrutped by this insane behavior. I kid you not, every other post in Twitter is about some scheme, and on Facebook, it is every group seemingly. Linked In is just now starting to have this corruption infiltrate there, and it is sad, as the concept of networking is a really fine idea. But try to make some speed doing this on any of the social media today. You will suffer the swarming virtually therein that I suffered physically in Indonesia.

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