Once upon a time, social media was about having a conversation. Or at least that was how I once experienced it.
Today, what is labeled social media isn’t a conversation at all. It’s a series of drive-by encounters using largely symbolic gestures to ostensibly convey some emotional response.Social media is no longer a conversation. It's become a series of drive-by Pavlovian bell dings.Click To Tweet
Sometimes these virtual encounters occur in something akin to real time, where someone shares some nugget of their life (or bit of noise) and others respond, usually with a tap or touch to signal the emotional response.
Then sometimes (mainly on Facebook) you get a symbolic response to a seemingly ancient tidbit of information months, now years, after the fact, thanks to Facebook’s efforts to maintain “engagement” on the platform to support the company’s business model.
This is NOT conversation and it’s no fun. It’s a Pavlovian response to noise.
The Internet Enables A Global Conversation
The entire premise of The Cluetrain Manifesto is that the internet enables humans, through conversations, to eliminate the command-and-control, centralized hierarchy of mediate communication.
The powers-that-be don’t like that.
The powers-that-be want to control the conversation.
Thanks to the capacity of technology and computing power, it’s possible to listen, learn and then use algorithms to feed the nuggets that trigger the desired response.
I’m taking back my playground.
I’ve decided to go back to using social media for conversation, or I won’t participate at all.
Blogs by Humans
I’ve made the choice to return to reading blogs written by humans, not regurgitated corporate news on an aggregated site that aims to generate pay-per-click ad revenue.
When I read human-written blogs, I’ve started commenting occasionally, in an effort to have a conversation (even if it’s one-sided) and to encourage the writer to keep sharing his or her ideas.
News Sites and Corporate Media
I do my best to avoid news aggregation websites.
Yes, I want to be an informed citizen. But I want to support the media organizations that pay actual journalists and op-ed writers a fair salary or rate for actually researching and writing something new.
Yes, that means I’ll be reading articles on corporate, big-media websites.
I don’t have a problem with advertising (in general), native advertising, or sponsored content. Just make sure it’s labeled and, if I click on the sponsored content it should be substantive, not fluff.
But–and this is a warning–if a corporate media site that produces original content bombards me with fly-in ads, popovers, and and auto-play media, I add it to my list of websites to avoid. If you respect me and deliver value-added ads, I can live with a few. If you give me a noisy, head-ache inducing experience, I’ll move on. I can live with a pop-up now-and-then, an invitation to subscribe or opt-in, but I’m not stupid. You don’t have to “yell” at me with your whiz-bang technology to see if I’m interested.
When listening to podcasts, I mostly opt for the podcasts made by and for humans outside of the corporate-owned media empire.
Even if I’m passively consuming the audio, the independently-created podcast is usually more like eavesdropping on fun conversations between real people, not hyper-edited storytelling that’s often nothing more than audio clickbait.
One reason I started podcasting myself in 2012 was to have conversations with interesting people and tell positive stories. That’s why I started Birmingham Shines, in particular. I wanted to meet more local people and present a better conversation about the Magic City.
Speaking of Click-Bait
A couple of years ago I made the intentional choice to never click on anything with a click-bait headline.
Conversation is Human, I Can Choose
Yes, this all requires choice, commitment and discipline.
Like any choice, like any habit it’s easier with practice.
I refuse to be one of Pavlov’s dogs.
I hope you’ll join me in the move to return humanity and conversation to social media and internet content. I’ll be writing more about this in the coming weeks.
Businesses are welcome to the conversation.
The first thesis of The Cluetrain Manifesto is that “markets are conversations.” I’m totally cool with having conversations for profit-generating activities. I just want it to be a real conversation.