A few weeks ago, I attended an event where Kara Swisher referred to the whole social media scene as the “social media self-reflecting echo chamber” and some of its stars as “assclowns.”
There was some uneasy chuckling at this — it was, after all, a panel called “Is Social Media Killing PR?” But mostly people knew exactly what she meant. There has been much, much sucking up and self-referencing going on lately.
I could have left it at that, until I read a post on an otherwise usually very thoughtful marketing/buzz blog. It warned all you unsuspecting innocents out there how to tell if your Social Media Consultant is really a carpetbagger.
It carried a breezy video comment with a young pup smilingly declaiming that there are actually people who don’t know what the Cluetrain Manifesto is, and knowing what it is should be a test (I am actually quite fond of the Cluetrain Manifesto, in the nostalgic way some people might be of, say, Goodnight Moon or their first love; but some of my more acerbic peers refer to it as the Common Sense Manifesto).
You know, it was harmless. Maybe they just were trying to be cute. He was contributing. And yet the combined effect reminded me of an endless string of cliche movie scenes: the stepsisters make fun of Cinderella:
The Socs make fun of Ponyboy:
The Mean Girls… well, you get the idea.
Some of the insights were fine. You should be wary of someone who doesn’t listen. Or whose first suggestion is a Facebook group.
But as one Twitterer told me privately, “the tone [of that post] made me cringe. It was so smug.”
Yah. We’re smug — because we broke the code, and we got here first. Or more first-ier, anyway. We know things these noobs don’t know. (insert comment calculated to suck up to Michael Arrington).
I have nothing against Michael Arrington. He’s great at what he does. In fact, leave him out of this. It’s the whole wink-wink say-no-more, you can’t be in my club thing that has sprung up lately.
Sidebar-With-A-Point: You know who got me into Twitter? @micah (Micah Baldwin) and the late @mochant (Marc Orchant). Two incredibly different men; two very different approaches. About a year ago, at deFrag. Marc started telling me excitedly about Twitter after Gnomedex; it was a “breakthrough” for him. Micah laid out his arguments for Twitter completely differently. But clearly, simply. Not once did he say, “you’re too old,” or, “you’re too new.”
Both guys were amazing that way. Brilliant, kind, open — natural teachers who had been at the social media game for a while. They were and are symbolic to me of what makes the open web succeed: you give people the information, explain why it’s useful, and see how they connect with it.
Micah could have given me, you know, that half-smile that kids reserve for people over 40 when they see them dance, when they’re embarrassed for them.
But instead he was just straight-up. “No, Twitter’s really cool. You should do it. Here’s the value for me:….” He laid it out, and he made sense. I was on Twitter that afternoon.
Yeah, several months after he and others were on it.
Maybe it’s the economic downturn — in a recession, some people want to make just that much more sure that someone knows that we know what we’re doing and knew it FIRST before those new people came in and started LIKING social media and trying to USE IT and making it all, you know, social and useful.
And yes, the blog post had a point — because there’s money to be made in brandishing phrases like “personal brand” and “social media consultant,” it helps to have some insights.
But part of why I didn’t get on Twitter earlier was because of a guy who was in some ways the opposite of Micah and Marc. A blogger/social media personality who trails little odorless puffs of hype behind him like the low-carbon Highlander Hybrid he started driving after he saw it on Project Runway. He is smart, he gets ironically and mildly underexcited about everything, he blogs about everything, people love to say they know him, he claims to know everyone.
I suspected that for him Twitter was the solution to that old Eminem song: “It feels so empty without me.” That was how I saw it — microblogging a tech raven’s life as it flew from one shiny object to the next. So since he was excited about Twitter two years ago, I felt forced to hate it, even though he didn’t know and wouldn’t care.
I was wrong about Twitter. I avoided this cool thing, just because he was annoying. (But haven’t you done that? Maybe it was a book, like The Tipping Point or Tuesdays with Morrie, that you avoided just because people flocked to it in droves and formed well, Facebook Groups about it. Or a movie that could not have possibly lived up to the hype. Or even Ron Paul, or Barack Obama.
But you give in – read the book or see the movie, or listen to Barack Obama talk. You concede that though the hype is annoying — well, there’s something there.)
The whole social media self-referencing echo chamber is getting annoying. But there’s still something there of value for people that are willing to walk past the posted insults of the Socs, or the whispered taunts of the Mean Girls, and make their own way towards the amazing resources to be found.
My husband works only tangentially with the tech world. He’s starting to find the value in Twitter as a tool for conversations with customers he didn’t know he had — just the way the Cluetrain Manifesto would want him to — and he wouldn’t know how to find the manifesto if it bit him in the …a**clown.
So please let’s stop the code words, do our jobs, follow our curiousity and trust that it will sort itself out, for the most part without having to act like Closed Web Snobs.