March 30, 2010

Meaningful Relationships?

If you haven't seen it, an interesting piece showed up last week in The Harvard Business Review called The Social Media Bubble. It's by a guy named Umair Haque who is Director of the Havas Media Lab (do you think they have test tubes and Bunsen burners?)

The article is not about social media marketing (which is what I'm always going off about) but about social media itself.

His overall point is that social media debases the meaning of "relationship"
  • "It used to mean someone you could count on. Today, it means someone you can swap bits with."
  • "Far from fueling meaningful conversation, today's "social" web is a world full of the linguistic equivalent of drive-by shootings."
  • "To be "friends" with 1000 people who are also obsessed with vintage 1960s glasses isn't friendship — it's just a single, solitary shared interest."
  • "If the "relationships" created on today's Internet were valuable, perhaps people (or advertisers) might pay for the opportunity to enjoy them. Yet, few, if any, do — anywhere, ever. ..That's because there's no there there. I can swap bits with pseudo-strangers at any number of sites. "Friends" like that are a commodity — not a valuable, unique good."
  • "The internet itself isn't disempowering government by giving voices to the traditionally voiceless; it's empowering authoritarian states to limit and circumscribe freedom by radically lowering the costs of surveillance and enforcement." (By the way, back in July, in a post called Iran: Twitter's Blair Witch we made the same point..."Let's try and remember something here. Tyrants don't get to power by being stupid. They're watching and learning...Technology isn't only effective at spreading information...It's also pretty good at suppressing it")
Although I'm very vocal about my skepticism about social media marketing, I actually enjoy social media. What do you guys think of Haque's points?

Just A Note On The Irresponsibility Of The Press
A few weeks ago we wrote a piece called Crisis In The Newsroom about the deterioration of journalism in the US. Yesterday an AP release left me speechless. It stated that US forces would begin an attack on Kandahar, stronghold of the Taliban in Afghanistan, in June. Don't these people realize that there are lives at stake and that by publishing this stuff they're endangering the lives of young men and women? What's going on here?

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