Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Social Media Enthnocentrism

"If you get it, share it," the tag-line for the Social Media Club pretty much outlines the information dissemination process. Learn and share.

It's no doubt more complicated than that. You follow, friend, listen, create, learn, engage, share, participate and more in social media. There are a whole slough of words that become a part of your social media vocabulary, once you've joined the club and started spreading the social media love.

The gospel is engagement. The gospel is community and conversation. But the gospel is for the most social of social media users. And I image that's not everyone.

We look at the steps of social media engagement, like it's a ladder to climb, something to reach the top of and conquer. It's an extension of the classic case of ethnocentrism that judges another culture without examining the biases of your own world view. Of course the social media-philes are going to run through all the steps of social media engagement--finding, following, joining, creating--and believe it's the best thing since slice bread (possibly skipping steps).

But all this evangelizing is making me crazy!

All those people out there reading in the silence are doing just fine. And I have to imagine that the majority of people out there on the web are reading, gathering information and learning, without commenting, re-tweeting, blogging, etc. And that's great! (Because if everyone out there in the world commented on everything after reading it, comments would become as noisy and meaningless as the lunchtime twitter-stream!)

Be where you are in social media. It's no better or worse than anyone else.


Chris Heuer said...

Its interesting to note that you use your view of the world to judge those who are passionate about being social - the same sort of what you perceive to be ethnocentrism you claim to be wrong with social media enthusiasts. A sort of reverse discrimination.

Of course, your interpretation of the phrase "if you get it, share it" is not the intention or purpose of social media club. In fact, it is quite the opposite of what you are talking about here in this post. As an early web adopter, I was amongst many who chastised and sometimes even demeaned those who didnt understand our world view and our perceived important of the web. So in looking at this new era, wanted to change that attitude as broadly as possible.

So the phrase is not some form of ethnocentrism, far from it. It is intended to encourage people who understand the social media world differently to be open, kind, and respectful - to help people who don't 'get it' to understand what is happening and why. This isnt the crusades - we are in a much more enlightened era today. People have free will and can find their voices (as you have clearly done here) or they can lurk and read or they can share with their friends more easily then ever before.

It is the potential to have a voice and be social which is so powerful. Whether or not anyone chooses to exercise that capability is up to them.

Sandy said...

Hey Chris,

Don't get me wrong, I think social media is great. In fact, I'm involved with SMC in Boston.

But I disagree with the idea that it is best for everyone to be engaged at the highest level across all forms of social media--and that's often how the social media gospel is put forth.

Ethnocentrism has a negative connotation, but it's natural to believe that the way that you're doing something is the best way. It's personal and culturally derived, and it makes sense, because if you didn't believe what you were doing was best, you probably wouldn't be doing it.

What I was really trying to say here is that those of us that are heavily involved in the social media space, those of us who do participate on all levels, see it from the perspective of it being best and talk about engagement in that way. From that point of view, it's sometimes too easy to forget that it's not how other people see it, and it may not be what's best.

I like the idea of sharing, in the sense that we should share social media with people who don't know or understand what it is. But I've noticed a tendency towards sharing the best of the how to, and I'm not sure it's applicable to everyone.

Adam Zand said...

Sandy, this is very interesting and I tend to agree with it all.

There are no set rules on how we should engage or socialize online or off, but I worry that our desire for a sharing caring community is sometimes just talk and self-serving. If that's a little harsh, then I do think it is missing the mark on bringing in "converts" or people who can join the party late.

I think Chris Heuer is missing the point (and he knows I support SMC big time) - there really do seem to be some closed walls or at least very established cliques in social media. I'm a bit troubled by the thirst for TwitterBoard or Twitterati.alltop.com.

I guess I'm OK with lists and referral networks, but is the greater community served by cliques and approved lists? Snob appeal turns some off.

Miss you Sandy!