Archive for the ‘tribes’ Category

The Tech Divide

Posted: June 10, 2010 in social media, tribes, Twitter
Tags: , ,

Translation: "I have interests?"

When I was in my early 20’s, I wrote a Sci Fi novel (never published, of course!) about a post-apocalyptic Earth where those who had sided blindly with what I thought of as the dark side. Technology (the “technocrats”) had parted ways with a more Earth-loving and spiritual “green” caste of society, led idealistically enough by native American tribes (who else?!) who teach moderns to live off the grid and store food, and who had presumably kept themselves “pure” from a world that only cares about convenience at any cost. The Nazis (you didn’t think they were far behind did you?) had secretly taken over the galaxy after losing interest in WWII, and now they were back in enormous black metal motherships with tilted swastikas and those stylish fascist brown and black uniforms, complete with those shiny snappy heel-clicking patent leather boots. As I write this today, I wonder how off I really was–about the technology divide, I mean. The Nazis in motherships? Okay that bit was probably a little off for sure.

Today we can all see people in one form of media (TV, even radio) dissing another form (social media: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.) without any insight whatever into the actual socially bonding uses of social media. These people actually think, because they only see the clips of the bizarre stuff making the rounds in viral videos and the like, that this is all we silly people are doing on the intertubes. People actually come on young shows like Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and tell him he shouldn’t waste time on Twitter. Poor Jimmy is always in the defensive position, when in reality he is probably more talented than most of his guests (the guy not only does amazing impressions and has a near genius comedic insight with some of the best written sketches in the 21st or the 20th century, but actually sings quite well, to boot).

While I don’t think it’s a necessity for everybody to be on Twitter (ranchers, hermits, fulltime moms, Presidents and surfboard sages, I salute you), and while many of us are constantly threatening to leave Facebook like it were a promiscuous spouse, we’re ultimately all here to connect with others. You know, other people like ourselves, people who care about whatever we care about. Let’s face it, even if your thing is making money and dying young partying, you have others to talk to about it, and that gives your life a semblance of meaning, at least in terms of social relations. If you’re a decent comedian or musician, you have lots of research to do on YouTube. When the designated generational “fogey” like Lewis Black says “I don’t care if you bought a new pair of shoes” most Twitter-users immediately get what Lewis Black simply doesn’t: not everyone on Twitter is a 14-yr-old girl with a mouth full of bubblegum. Most of the users I personally see and talk to tend to be male (not crucially important, but telling in terms of male/female ratios), and networking for mostly business purposes. The majority of adults are, and I can state this with some boldness, in fact, either on Twitter for business or for causes that affect people on a massive scale. And in all cases, they’re here to find people who share the interests that their own families and high-school or college friends just simply don’t. It doesn’t mean we don’t love our spouses, our families, our long time friends, but our Twitter posse…the people who know what we’re talking about, they’re out there, ya know?

Truth is, there are lots of aging seniors with stories of fascinating lives to be found hanging out in the spare moments on Twitter. Tree-hugging green people (I’m kind of one of them to a limited extent), conservative Tea Party revolutionaries (okay, I’m definitely not one, at least not yet)–whatever you tweet about and network for, it’s meaningful to you or you wouldn’t be doing it. Studies (I’ll post what I find below) have begun to show that people stop if they find they’re not doing what they love, they just stop, eventually, and start over. So Lewis Black, not only have I never found you funny (sorry, but is caffeine and nicotine withdrawal ever really funny?), but you and Adam Sandler (another pointlessly unfunny “comic”–see his cinematic “twatter” reference) both don’t get what about half of the world already does. Namely that:

A) there are lots of individual non-famous people funnier than the both of you put together–on YouTube…seriously, and

B) social media isn’t about fitting into a preconceived mold like you claim not to be doing, it’s about being ourselves, our full selves, the selves we don’t find opportunity to be with those that fate has thrown us together with in many, if not most cases (at least until we marry and create/train/assemble children into people we think we appreciate and “get” us).

Sure there are limits to the defining of your network, even online. If you want to show another, less mainstream side of yourself to your posse, you might even have to change to another profile. When you go to the bar or to church, how much of that self can you be then? There are more strict limits in geographically limited situtations. This is why meetups (SXSW, the Japanese language group, the myriad of multiplying cultural cons) have become a thing. People want to actually meet and hang out with these people they share so much interest with. Nowadays, I think technology is about one of the few things that enables people who care about the arts, a decent intellectual discussion, socially engaged causes–or speed-crochet for that matter–to actually take action towards fulfilling our full potentials and create meaning in ways that our immediate social geography may just not provide on such a wide open scale.

So, please understand if we don’t listen to you too closely, oh purveyors of social media ridicule with mics and cameras on, but it’s just that we know that you don’t know quite yet what you’re even talking about. And besides, we’re often too busy concocting factually relevant critiques of social media, and not because it annoys us what other people do with their time, but a lot of us seem to care about whatever we’re into. Maybe we’re just funny like that?

This concludes my grumpy midlife crisis moment…for now. You know yours is coming soon, so please don’t front. I’d like my pillow and remote now. I’m old.

Not.

Call me shy I guess. Well, I’m not shy, but I am somewhat private. The day I went up to a room full of 70+ Chinese college students and began to give my first class on business English, it became harder and harder for me not to speak up whenever I have something to say. But in all honestly, I’m still a shy guy. Introverted as all heck! It’s a wonder I can muster the courage to blog. But when I take up something I believe in, that’s when it changes. I don’t call it passion, I call it doing what I believe in. To me, it’s quite an important difference.

Lots of people demonstrate their social behavior with FollowFriday (#FF) each Friday. I frequently am on the receiving end either for my personal or my business Twitter profile. Yet I never do #FF or even thank people as a rule for a simple RT. Was I raised in a barn? Does that rhetorical question even work here?….No seriously, am I just dense-headed? Maybe, but here’s how I do thank people for RTs:

1) Return the favor of being Retweeted by retweeting something important to that person, usually when it matters most to them

Whether it’s a promotion of a product or an event, or just supporting someone when they’re having a rough day or a sweet victory, I like to support people by retweeting them if they’ve done so for me. Sometimes I walk up to people and just start talking to them, or I retweet them without knowing anything else about them, because I think the tweet or the link speaks for itself, and I generally try to give credit where credit is due.

2) Talk up people I like and think are great in public tweets

Whether or not I even know you! Most shy people don’t do that!

3) Follow almost anyone who follows me if they are not a spammy profile

Now, not only do I not hold it against anyone for doing the friendly #FF thing, and I am enormously grateful that people are thinking of me, regardless of whether or not it actually helps anyone’s following. That’s not to say that I have noticed a discernible difference yet, personally, but maybe that’ll change. I do know that I never have followed anyone just because I see a #FF hash tag next to a list of names, even if the person is someone I like and even somewhat respect. Are other people the same as me? Probably not. That’s just me.

That said, I DO think that it’s very important to be social back to people who are social and friendly to you, in whatever way you are most comfortable with. It may not come up today, or tomorrow, but sooner or later you run into everyone twice, even more, especially when you think “oh I’ll never see them again!”. That’s when you are applying for a job or some membership and that person is your pivotal contact. That’s just how life is. And though it’s kind of the wrong reason to be good to people, it’s at least a pragmatic reason for those who feel that being good is “Pollyanna” or whatever. And if it’s not how other people do it, don’t let that stop you rom expressing yourself. Just try not to embarrass anyone. At the end of the day, there is nothing less sociable than humiliating someone (or even just trying to). YOu may not think so, but people remember this behavior, and when it’s your time, they really remember it.

The most important thing on Twitter is just to be authentically you! So if you like #FF or some other trend, don’t do as I do, do as you like! The one thing I can’t stand is the Twitter Nazis who like to say that everyone’s style must be the same. It really shouldn’t be. Just don’t (please) get mad at me if I don’t thank you for a RT or do the Follow Friday bit. It’s not my style, but I do remember a good turn, believe me. I’ve definitely got your number.

Oh, grow up!

My, how you've grown this year!

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In many ways, the holistic e-trinity of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook is starting to gel with users of each and share resources. App makers are paying more attention to joining all of the myriad of social tools available into a more seamless social web terrain…and it’s working. Social tools are starting to overshadow the big boys of the internet that we all thought were untouchable. The numbers on Facebook’s overtaking of Google in terms of raw daily visits are staggering! Facebook was not that long ago still too much of a MySpace to be taken seriously by Fortune 500 companies, much less thinking people.Now it’s vying for top social media tool in the minds of many–myself included. 

How did this happen? My take is the untoward publicity on Facebook’s privacy issues may have actually sparked more debate and discussion and thinking about the private vs. the public by setting the stage with a starter discussion on setting permissions. Meanwhile, Facebook was busy integrating with other apps that allow interaction of accounts with popular social networking tools. Certainly there have been an onslaught of new innovative apps that sew together user experience across platforms that formerly saw each other in more competitive terms. This cooperative spirit has led to more cross-platform communicators demonstrating new potential just on the fringe of what is currently materialized. People are, in short, doing real Web 2.0 on a more grand scale. Companies are becoming more adaptive to “black swans“, the events that shake up and sometimes make or break a company or group. Things are, in short, speeding up, evolving. 

I think we also have to credit the recently emerged FourSquare and Google Buzz to some extent, for simply stirring the pot in significant, game-changing ways. We also can’t forget the iPhone, which has really pulled together the idea of bringing the social web to life as a compact do-it-all personal accessory. Not the just ability to pull it together, but the branding savvy and ability to get adoption on a mass-scale has forced other phone makers to predictably follow suit. Oddly enough, only Apple has actually topped the iPhone, but making a tablet that will probably exceed all other tablets before it. 

The social web consists of overlapping conversations within an inherently open-ended forum, not "marketing messages" and not exclusively "chat messages" like previously. As everyone seeks a role an expanding conversation with rapidly expanding participation from outside itself, the conversation takes on a different, more "not final" aspect. And social media marketing players will in the future likewise consist increasingly of niche partners providing value to the public (and private) domain of the social, not "competitors" grasping for "limited" market share.

 

In reality, however, I think each new player, each new alternative is becoming a niche provider of unique opportunities in contradistinction to the others that can’t grow without the others. Sort of like covering angles and omitting investiture into already-branded areas. The market has always had this principle at work, of course, but now the innovation curve is speeding up fast enough to make the principles of branding your niche much more of an inescapable realization. 

As things begin to cook, I wonder how personalities will play out in this more integrated social web that sees not so much competitors, but instead of emerging cooperating niche  partners? For now it seems that there are a lot of talking heads but the leadership structures are still forming and changing around, with few visible mega-movements actually affecting the culture at large. There have been a lot of emerging movements-to-be being kicked around. The Linchpin Way is one tiny but serious example of such a little movement trying to take make a big difference. In the end, I think they are a step along the way to what I called in a previous post, a sense of appreciation and awe at the idea and goal of community-at-large: the desire to serve an open-ended sense of community, rather than one particular enclave (for example, “me and my friends/company/partners/family”, etc.). It’s simply the idea that since the market is actually becoming global even at the local level, that it should think in a way that recognizes itself as a single interconnected all-tribe, made up of legions of smaller tribes. 

Books by Seth Godin, Chris Brogan and Gary Vaynerchuk (can you believe Brogan doesn’t have his own Wikipedia page yet?) have sparked discussion and inspired groups and projects, and of course, entire movements within marketing and social media as a region of thought. While such movements may be in many cases still in their infancy, this is an interesting development for me, because I can for the first time see people sacrificing more than just the time to blog for 5 minutes about something that popped up on Twitter. If people actually start changing their schedules, they start to refocus and change their lives, and then they may be more open to some of the more open-ended movements like The Linchpin Way, or say, even community-at-large (a phrase which I think actually does have a uniquely functioning meaning beyond reducing it to “good marketing” or “widening market-reach” or even “spirituality” or whatever). 

Whatever turns it takes, I think that the unstoppable Hegelian dialectic of social and cultural movements inevitably requires us to grow up along with the tools we us in the social web as it has in areas like nuclear war/energy, the environment, and the prospect of unending nation-building in unstable parts of the world. Social media will require that we grow up a little socially (not just technologically) by making us bump up against one another, via and outside of our own tribes, even despite our own tribes. Perhaps the term ought to be “social technology”, since it refocuses us on the nature of how technologies shape the world, us and the very notion of the social, instead of faintly promoting the lingering delusion of a “fair and balanced” or democratic media with no shaping function. 

However you look at it, we’re now able to literally rub shoulders with virtually anyone with a smart phone with wireless capability, including actual heads of state (in some limited cases) and thought-leaders from every sector and part of the world. Perhaps the mind-blowing reality of the” social” in social media will be when homeless start becoming power-users via libraries and cheap cellphones with universal wireless connections. What would you say/tweet to a homeless person? Would it be the type of thing you’d tweet to others? How would the whole “living large” mindset of the upwardly mobile play out as the internet opens up to the far reaches of the rural areas of the so-called “third world”? How do modernized people look to those outside that parameter? And finally, would your social media movement shrivel a bit at the prospect of a truly universal world-wide web? If not, could it grow to meet the challenge? 

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