While I feel every blogger has written about this topic at some point in the life of their blog. This topic is one that is always relevant, but is one that is often ignored. The reason why I am writing about this though, is because it it a point of major conflict for me.
I am conflicted because my day is ruled by my cell phone, yet I seldom use it for its intended purpose. I am on Facebook, Linkedin, twitter, blogging, any of my 7 e-mail accounts or one of the 6 messaging services I use. The connectivity made available by so many different services and mediums is such an obstacle that I actually had to schedule non work related social media time into my calendars. While many people joke about connectivity anxiety, I can understand where the nerves can come from. Especially in the field that I am in, my (and by extension my employers) internet presence and more importantly my influence is (at least in my opinion) important.
For as long as I can remember I was taught to respect and possibly even to revere power. I wasn’t told outright that I should fight my way to the top because power is success and success brings wealth, society and religion taught me that. The hierarchal default of society and religion has created an imbalance of power between between those that fight, buy, or screw (sometimes all three) their way to the top, and those that actually do the work. There is an imbalance between those create the ideas and those that give the final stamp of approval. The major disruptive breakthroughs in all markets though have embraced a change in corporate topography. Zappos may be the most recognized example of this corporate structure, but they started the shift in paradigm that has brought us to where we stand today.
We are at the point in time where the little guy now has a voice. The internet (and its technologies) has created giants out of dwarfs, mountains out of molehills. Thanks to Zuckerberg who created not the first, but the disruption to the concept of community, and influenced the redefinition of network (and networking), we now have entire industries that have been created to leverage these new environments. We have entire business models that are dependent on social media and microcosms within the larger networks to achieve success. Often you can predict the pivot a company or startup will take based on social reaction to events or news associated to the company.
13 years ago I remember debating with dinner guests the effect that email would have on the postal industry. The major players at the time were AOL, Netscape, Juno, Earthlink and a few others. The argument was whether or not an untested and new technology can disrupt a well established standard, lets just say the USPS now has a twitter feed (@USPS for those that are interested in the next collector stamp lineup). Wikipedia killed encyclopedia Britannica, Netflix obliterated Blockbuster. If it were not for the human need of companionship and physical interaction Amazon would have bankrupted most shopping and retail outlets. The internet has changed the landscape of the world by giving the little guy a voice (and me a blog to write about it). Therein lies the issue.
No it really is ok that I have a blog, the issues start when virtual over powers reality. The internet gives untold and unlimited power to anyone with a keyboard and a bit of gumption. Since a large portion of persons social circle is present most often in a single virtual arena, that persons influence is judged by their following, and just like in real life a crowd just based on the fact that there already is a crowd.
In real life the energy from a crowd fuels the performance. In social media though, the crowd is virtual, there is no real presence. Sure people are there, they are reading every other word, but they don’t care. Not really anyways. I went through my friend list of Facebook a few months ago and cleared out over 400 ‘friends’ i went from well over 500 ‘friends’ to just over 100. Most have not even realized.
In the end of the day, the internet is like anything else in life. It is a tool whose usefulness is dependent on the user. There are many ways to loose oneself in the internet and social media, the ego has many effects and perceived influence can inflate the ego disproportionate to reality. There are so many helpful, and good aspects to the internet though that I cannot say it is a bane on society or myself. I only hope that the internet will continue to effect society positively.