Social Media is awesome in that it gives a voice to so many people who might not otherwise have one. Facebook and Twitter, for example, played a key role in the social uprisings/changes that occurred in Egypt and are happening the world over. The pictures, words and feelings that might otherwise be crushed by oppressive regimes are finding audiences the world over. And it’s important.
The drawback, of course, to all of these open and free opportunities to be heard is the tendency we seem to have developed to criticize, or worse, we seem to have become a society that loves to root for failure before achievement. Or perhaps it’s just that this “new media” has provided a more public forum to those who live to bitch. (No, I’m not talking about the demise of dictatorships. I’m talking about cheering for the failures of good people.) Much of this seems to be fueled by pundits who make their living stirring up the masses. As a result, it seems we’re being trained to take a sides – on everything. It’s more like Anti-Social Media. (Yes, I understand the irony that I seem to be criticizing with this post. I get it.)
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m hypersensitive to some criticism. I’m the guy that wants to defend friends, strangers and even myself against Tweets, FB posts, blogs or anything else that belittles the good works we’re all trying to do. And that’s often all it is – we’re just trying to do our very best. But, the truth is that I’m not looking to defend just because there are times I feel attacked. I want to defend because of the judgments that are made without full use of the facts. I want to scream from the rooftops, “You don’t know what you’re talking about!” In “agency” terms, when we start any kind of effort on behalf of any client, we do extensive discovery. We strive to learn everything – from the target demographics, to the brand to the message to the people to…everything.
The reason social media becomes dangerously anti-social, however, is that it’s so damn immediate and it (mostly) excludes such discovery. Instead, of discovering the who, what, when, where and how, people are now so quick to jump and rip on something or someone without even knowing the background. It seems like we’re all but giddy to tag something as #EPICFAIL without even knowing what success was supposed to be.
Let’s pick any hot, recent topic: Did James Franco’s OSCAR hosting effort seem a bit – unOSCARworthy? Perhaps. But, that’s no easy gig. Who the hell am I to even say? But the truth is that in today’s anti-social communications world, NOBODY can do ANYTHING that will be universally loved and applauded. No chance. In fact, I’m guessing the best anyone can ever hope for is “most” people liking whatever effort is being made. Because we’re so engrossed in taking sides these days, chances are half the people dig it and half the people hate it. The hope is a few more like it (but we might not ever know because those that “hate” are far more vocal than those who “like”).
Or even Charlie Sheen. I fall on my sword here, as I posted a couple of Tweets about how he was imploding. But, on the other hand, maybe he’s the most authentic person on the planet and instead of hiding his feelings, he’s actually speaking his mind as clearly as he can. More power to him in that case. Just because he doesn’t sound like the rest of us, we immediately peg him as crazy. (Though, on the surface, I don’t necessarily agree with him throwing everyone under the bus, but admittedly, and some of his statements seem to be more than a bit misleading or half-truths. I don’t know all the details.)
Okay, so maybe the OSCARS and Charlie Sheen are bad examples (at least to most!), but how about the reporter who had a migraine in the midst of her GRAMMY Award red carpet report? She experienced a serious medical issue, but before we knew what had happened, she was subjected to thousands of comments and millions upon millions of impressions that poked fun at her. These comments were rude. They were mean. Social media provides the opportunity for instant judgments. Maybe we should take a step back.
We’re not naïve enough to think that “everyone can just get along,” but a world filled with positive social media efforts and love (or more appropriately, perhaps, “likes”) is more likely to be a grateful, positive place. Everyone’s a critic. I just wish it didn’t have to be that way.