A Simulacrum for Action | ideasonideas

Pretending to Engage

We speak of social networks, but this term has become misleading as, in practice, we really only mean Facebook and Twitter. This is an incidental note, but one I feel we should start to consider more carefully. We don’t use many social networks, but we are on Facebook, and this has changed a great deal about how we act. Or, perhaps it hasn’t.

I loathe team sports. While I’m quite keen on going for a bike ride or perhaps a hike in the woods, I find the notion of sitting on the couch, while rooting for “my” team, rather ghastly. While I can appreciate the desire to actually partake in some sport, this hysterical behavior from the sidelines seems pointless and masturbatory. While it may make you feel good, it accomplishes very little else.

In spite of criticizing this dialogue, I don’t mean to silence anyone. Instead, I ask when we take the next step. Posting a status update regarding one’s fears for their nation is a start. Putting down the mouse and actively joining a party that more accurately reflects one’s beliefs is so much more. For all those folks who posted their gripes online, I’ll bet less than 1 in 10 watched the debates. I’ll bet that less than 1 in 100 knocked on doors, campaigning for their party of choice. I’ll go one step further and bet that less than 1 in 1,000 considered exercising their democratic rights, and running for a seat.

This, then, becomes the tragic irony of the social network. We “like” pages in order to not offend our friends, “share” mundane nonsense and self-promotion, and “engage” with well-intentioned causes, so long as none of it avoids us doing anything more than contributing a click. We’re all “concerned” about the environment, but few of us sell our cars. We “boycott” oil companies for a day, only to fill our tanks the next. We think we’re “engaging” with our friends, but when we see many of them in public, we hardly know how to behave.

Most notably, we’ve convinced ourselves that we’re doing something constructive, when we’re mostly just adding to the chorus of meaningless banter that has become a global affliction. Want to connect with a friend? Invite them over for dinner. Want to share something? Give them something you’d actually miss. And for heaven’s sake, if you want to affect change in your community (or nation), turn off your computer, get off your ass, and actually do something.

I will say, though, that Facebook and Twitter do have the ability to give clients that nice veneer of 'measurability'.

We got 10k likes! Woot! KPI met!

But what did it actually accomplish?


Well... it got us likes...

That means something, right?

(It's not that I dislike all social media on principle, it's just that it's often used wrongly. If it's REALLY a channel for constructive customer feedback, or helps customers to solve problems / help each other solve problems, then it's great.)