What social media naysayers nay say–and why we should listen

A few weeks ago, a friend pointed me to this Chronicle of Higher Education post. The article itself is certainly worth a read, but what really got my attention were the comments. Amid the snarkiness you’ll find in a lot of comment threads, there was an underlying debate about the value of social media as a whole. This comment from “transparentopaque” was just one example of the naysayers’ side of the argument:

I do not have a Facebook or Twitter account. So, I have nothing to worry about. I have yet to figure out what anybody could possibly have to say via Twitter that I absolutely need to read. Is anyone’s life really that interesting? Yes, but only those people who do not waste their time posting on social media networks. Life is happening, and many people today are wasting it away talking about it. Instead of living in the moment, people are analyzing every aspect of their life to determine its suitability as a Facebook status update.

I’ve determined that it isn’t really the “sharing” that drives people to social media, it is the sense that they have a captive audience. But that is only an illusion. Few people participate in order to read what others have to say; they participate in order to have a forum in which they can hear themselves speak. Narcissism has finally found its place in this world.

Now it would be easy to dismiss these comments as the rantings of someone in an ivory tower clinging to his last typewriter ribbon as the world passes him by. However, I think there’s a message that even the most ardent social media proponent should listen to. Just as it’s probably wrong for this person to throw the social media baby out with the narcissism bathwater, it’s wrong to believe that this person is all wet.

The fact is, there’s some truth in “transparentopaque’s” comments. And while it may not be easy to hear, it should serve as a lesson to all of us about what the resistance to social media really sounds like. We can rant and rave all we want about people who “don’t get it,” but we help feed the beast every time we obsess over our Klout scores or try to improve our standing on EmpireAvenue. Yes, some of the social media naysayers are full of shit. But so are some of the most vehement social media adherents.

The bottom line is that social media is merely an amplifier. Is it all narcissistic trash? No, but it amplifies our desire to talk about and hear about ourselves. The irony is that “transparentopaque” used a social media channel to share his distaste for social media. And you can guarantee that when another poster, “ellenhunt,” followed up his comment with “Will you marry me?! ;-),” “transparentopaque” read it and smiled.

Social media doesn’t make people narcissistic. Human nature makes people narcissistic. Social media is just an amplifier.

That doesn’t make “transparentopaque’s” comments invalid, though. It just means we’ll all have to work a little harder–somewhat against our nature–to prove him wrong.

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4 Responses to What social media naysayers nay say–and why we should listen

  1. Transparentopaque, like so many social media naysayers, is objecting to what he thinks social media is and not what social media really is. It’s a lot like giving a negative review to a book he hasn’t even read.

    Although it’s true that there are narcissists out there using Twitter, Facebook, et al., the real narcissists aren’t “successful” in social, especially in Twitter, which requires more active interaction with a community for success. The people who use social only to tell people about themselves don’t really understand what social is, what it can do, and what it can become. And neither do the naysayers like transparentopaque.

    Didn’t your mother teach you to try something first before you decide you don’t like it?

  2. Andy Welfle says:

    That was an interesting article — thanks for the link! I was a fan of the “zombie” metaphor in the article, and so true of any organization that uses a student worker or an intern to operate their social media functions — they might not stick around for the long-haul.

    I do want to know what you think about the comment about how the University of Virginia’s library has 14 Facebook accounts (pages, I’m assuming), and how many of those do you think are zombie accounts.

  3. As a proponent of personal branding, I WOULD have felt that transparentopaque’s remark about narcissism was well-founded because I have become increasingly uncomfortable about this trend. Nevertheless, I continue to be a proponent of social media for learning because I feel that it can be harnessed to generate artifacts that can be used to assess student learning as well as to document teacher professional development (http://blog.learnstream.info/post/10863713759/getting-all-as-in-school)

    For its potential contribution to “hot button” issues such as learning assessment and teacher accountability in education, social media is no longer narcissistic, but instead it can become a powerful AMPLIFIER for advocacy of education.

    Don’t you think we need more innovative ways of harnessing social media like this in order to answer the naysayers? Let’s get to work!

  4. Pingback: People Who Don't Use Social Media Shouldn't Dismiss Social Media

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