Technology March 31, 2010 Last updated March 31st, 2010 1,746 Reads share

What can you see in a Social Media Bubble?

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Umair Haque writes an exceptional thought provoking piece called The Social Media Bubble at Harvard Business Review.

He advances this hypothesis:

“Despite all the excitement surrounding social media, the Internet isn’t connecting us as much as we think it is. It’s largely home to weak, artificial connections, what I call thin relationships.

During the subprime bubble, banks and brokers sold one another bad debt — debt that couldn’t be made good on. Today, “social” media is trading in low-quality connections — linkages that are unlikely to yield meaningful, lasting relationships”

He backs this up with some meaty and extremely well thought out arguments including:

“If social tools were creating real economic gains, we’d expect to see a substitution effect. They’d replace — disintermediate — yesterday’s gatekeepers. Yet, increasingly, they are empowering gatekeepers. Your favorite social networks aren’t disintermediating PR agencies, recruiters, and other kinds of brokers. They’re creating legions of new ones”

He’s right!

“The Internet runs on love. Equally, though, it’s full of hate: irrational lashing-out at the nearest person, place, or thing that’s just a little bit different. Read any newspaper web comments sections lately? Usually, they’re giant puddles of bile and venom. Check out these emails to Floyd Norris. Far from fueling meaningful conversation, today’s “social” web is a world full of the linguistic equivalent of drive-by shootings.”

He’s right!

“The promise of the Internet wasn’t merely to inflate relationships, without adding depth, resonance, and meaning. It was to fundamentally rewire people, communities, civil society, business, and the state — through thicker, stronger, more meaningful relationships.

And right again!!

So why then publish this here on a site that depends on people who believe in the power of the net, why risk disappointing our bread and butter so to speak – not the wisest of moves now! you might think.

I reference this brilliant article because it raises one massive point! The promise of the Internet was and remains to fundamentally rewire people. This remains as true today as it ever has. The challenge however is that it is just that, Promise! Potential! & Capability. What people choose to do with this promise is entirely up to them and so it should be.

We suffer from the arrogance that we are good at relationships, yet our history on this planet tells us that we are anything but. Why then should we be so surprised if these new tools in many cases merely facilitate our old habits. Maybe, it is not the internet that needs rewiring but rather the technology inside of our heads.

The internet & social media creates the opportunity to connect like never before. If we fail to take advantage, fair enough! But let us at least have the decency to not blame the tool. Relationships are and will continue to be about people, if a relationship fails, people fail.

Perhaps if we were to start thinking of the internet as a very powerful mirror, one which reflects back upon us our good and our bad. Then perhaps, we may begin to realise that when blame the internet or social media, we are merely pointing the finger at ourselves?

Niall Devitt

Niall Devitt

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