Friday, 18 October 2013
I've been on twitter now for four years, and when I joined it didn't feel all that new. I was aware of it long before I decided to sign up. So as an old hand it's perhaps not surprising that I have a slightly different perspective from people who only started out on it recently.
You go through phases, and with Social Media there are always phases, and fads, and moods... just as, I suppose there are in real life. Only you can act on them faster. The wordless "Unfollow" button is something that is (fortunately? sadly?) lacking in real life relationships. But even accepting the fact that things change and have their own dynamics, I often feel that I've come to the end of the line with Social Media. I can safely say there won't be any more surprises left (other than the radical monetization of a site). It could go its merry way for another 4 or 40 years, Twitter settling into an ever more boring routine of links posted, RTs received, hashtags followed, people followed and unfollowed and so on and so on. Facebook? I left that a year ago: Cat photos, baby photos, interspersed with un-targeted ads. Old school friends, now unrecognisable, inviting you to play farm games...
So what have I learned, and why am I now less than enthusiastic about Social Media in general? I've learned that Social Media is a great enhancer of things. Suddenly you're in touch with all those people! Having conversations about...well whatever floats your boat, really. SEO? Translation? Sex in dungeons? It's all there (The last item I can't be sure about, actually). Only a month ago I remember having a conversation about Hugo von Hofmannsthal's poetry just before midnight on a Wednesday.These things don't happen all that often in real life. But "enhancement" is the operative word. There is no essence to it. No substance, no core.There is confirmation, entertainment (sometimes), there is a lot of redundancy and routine. And never anything solid, anything you can hang onto.
Social Media is inconsequential. It goes on for ever - if you let it -but nothing will ever change on account of it. Whatever you thought you might get out of it (and I'm talking about the long run, not your giddy first year) - you won't. It won't enliven your life, it won't sell you more copies of your oft-rejected and now self-published e-book, it won't put you in touch with Justin Bieber, it won't launch your model career, and if you're a company it won't sell you more products, despite what all those studies may say - they are there for a reason, after all: To get more companies in on the social media act.
Of course there are good things happening there - speaking for myself, I backed a very worthy cause for years, and brought it to a satisfactory end, I unmasked a spy, I won books and competitions, got to know (and unknow) fabulous people and resurrected old contacts. Sure.
But Social Media (whatever your favourite site is) will carry on and on and on, like the next Sudoku puzzle, and the next crossword. And that's fine, as long as you're aware of it, and don't expect anything else.