Internet Curmudgeon

naughtyscott.jpgI remember when ‘personal brands’ were called ‘personalities.’

I remember when cult leaders where the only people who had followers, and making friends was a littler harder than clicking a button.

I remember when conversations took place face to face.

I remember when ‘user generated content’ was just called ‘making crap.’

Social media has changed all that, though. Now it is all about ‘following your DNA,’ and Digging your top ten list while rushing to get into the latest closed beta from yet another company that promises to help you manage your online interactions, or that let’s you tag your workout schedules.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Internet. I blog like a maniac, I Twitter with the best of them… but lately the ratio of sensible talk to crap spewing has really gotten out of control.

Alex Hillman who I am a big fan of, is a passionate and smart fellow. I recall when I first met him (well, the second time I met him) all he could talk about was co-working. And then every subsequent time I saw him over the next year all he could talk about was co-working. His focus and drive is very impressive (and you can’t argue with the results: I’m a huge Indy Hall booster even though I am a lame work a day dude myself).

Clearly, I wouldn’t have said all these nice things unless I was leading up to something less than nice (that’s a rhetorical device, kids). Alex recently penned his first post on Mashable (a site which I find almost as annoying as TechCrunch, but not quite) titled “How to Know if You Should Fire Your Social Media Consultant.”

He missed one important sign, though: they use the term ‘social capital exchange’ without a hint of irony (what does it even mean?!). Call me old fashioned, I won’t hear you over my phonograph anyway, but what the hell is a ‘social media consultant’ anyway? Is that like paying someone to find you friends? I’m all for people getting big corporations to give them lots of money for very little work, but when a whole class of people who seem to exist merely to go to conferences and talk about the same things over and over again, with the same people, crops up I know that the party is over.

But who am I to stop you from thinking that Gary Vaynerchuk is a genius for telling people to do what they like, and work hard? If you want to spend all your time making virtual friends rather than actually creating something be my guest. But I, for one, would like it if you did it quietly and without labeling yourself as an expert on anything.

Yep, I’m an Internet Curmudgeon. I can’t be the only one out there. Someone else must have to resist rolling their eyes as much as I do when someone introduces themselves as a ‘social media consultant,’ or suggests that what your small business really needs is a CXO (that’s ‘Chief Experience Officer’), can I?


15 responses to “Internet Curmudgeon”

  1. BRAVO! Well said.
    I thought I was the only person noticing these things: That so many people are spending too much time on “social networking” online and not enough time building real relationships. That so many people recycling the same crap over and over on our blogs rather than creating something new and interesting. That so many people seem to be talking (and tweeting and blogging) about conferences and interactive Web sites instead of how they spend a weekend with their families or friends and no computer.
    Thanks for writing this. I hope plenty of people read it.
    I might just have to blog it. 😉

  2. i think it depends on who your audience is. from a museum perspective we can only do so much in house to reach local ‘constituents’ but at the same time we are working on taking what we do locally and doing it globally.i think this is where user generated, social capital(?), all those web2.0 terms come into play. its using this new technology and applying it in different ways to make an impact on not only people but also the technology itself to make it rethink itself and evolve. theres only one way to experience mentos and diet coke and thats for yourself outside with the proper safety attire.

  3. Scott, I couldn’t agree more. (Well, that’s my way of saying, “Right on, brother.”
    People forget that technology is just a tool. And people are tools when they think the technology is the end all.
    Super well said about the irony of social media consultants. That kind of stuff makes me laugh through my nose.

  4. On a related note, I’ve noticed a small but loud group repeatedly skewering other’s use of social media. Repeatedly. On Twitter, in their blogs. You need to get a life, they say. You’re only doing this for the attention. Repeatedly. And I have to wonder, no self-awareness or self-loathing?

  5. Lex, isn’t blogging, by its very nature, something you do for attention (I would argue any sort of writing for an audience also falls into the attention seeking zone)?
    Perhaps I need to harness the power of social media so I can get a life. 😉

  6. Wow. Dang, Scott, you captured my thoughts exactly! Pretty much down to the letter. (Including the part about IndyHall. It’s a great idea that has filled a gaping hole in the market, and deserves all the success it’s found.)
    I’ve found myself rolling my eyes a lot recently, too. I’ll just add my two cents…
    It all reminds me of the DotCom crash. I remember hearing about lots of conferences, partying and web pages… and very little about any actual work getting done on products with a prayer of making any money.
    Don’t even get me started on all the empty buzzwords. My “paradigm was leveraged for maximum shareholder value” a long time ago.
    I’ve been to very few conferences in my career. Know why? Because I was too busy *working*. ‘Nuff said.

  7. Being both a friend of Alex and an occasional witty-one-line-exchanger with Scott, I thought I’d dive in with my thoughts.
    I think that you’re mixing things up a little, Scott, by comparing inter-personal relationships with business-to-consumer relationships.
    There aren’t a lot of companies that build “relationships” in any fashion with their customers. Do I think that friends still need to hang out instead of exist solely on Facebook and Twitter? Sure, but I thought that way when email and IM were the only online communications mechanisms. But relationships between friends and relationships (if at all) between business-and-consumers are totally different things. The later is almost entirely driven on marketing to your customer.
    The fact is – and especially when targeting that lovely 18-30 demographic as a business – that most of your demographic is online most of the day – on Facebook, on Twitter, etc. Gary V. started building his business by being on the floor of his store and greeting people, but built it up so large because of the internet and internet marketing (and yes, because he built himself up some social capital, which lends him credence among those that shop for wine online). ComcastCares on Twitter is a fantastic outlet for frustrations with Comcast (and actually gets things accomplished!) I follow CulturedCode, Zappos, ChoiceShirts, and many other companies on Twitter, and appreciate them taking the time to post there. It keeps me informed about companies I’ve chosen to engage with.
    Ignoring social media as a legitimate business marketing outlet is not smart. It’s part of the internet. A business would never exist without a website today – so why should they exist that other half of the internet that’s actually communicating at break-neck speeds?
    Have you tweeted about Fork You! on Saturday?? 😉

  8. Ah, Scott. My favorite passive aggressive internet curmudgeon :). I’m really glad you augmented my post with this thought. There are LOTS of other reasons to fire (or not hire in the first place). I’m thrilled that people are thinking about it, and now are willing to open their mouths about it.
    And of course, thanks for the kind words <3.
    As far as ‘social capital exchange’, try to think of it as a metaphor. Clearly, there is no “bank of social capital”, and considering our current economic situation, that’s probably a good thing.
    What the metaphor does, though, is gives us something to put in front of the marketing people that are otherwise abusing the tools and, even worse, the customers.
    I see this education being the #1 most important reason for this discussion to be taking place. You’re cynicism certainly fits in the discussion, and I welcome it with open arms.

  9. Wow, wow. A couple of thoughts: I love what Scott said (including the part about IndyHall) and since he said it so well I will leave it at that. I also think Dave Martorana made a critical distinction between real friendships among people and the commercial relationships between businesses and their customers. But I don’t think that Scott is mixing those two up. I think he is emphasizing the difference. I think he is saying that a huge proportion of what is represented as friend-and-relationship building via social media is hot air, based on jargon and the desire of companies to sell more stuff. Even if he isn’t saying that, I am.
    I understand wanting to sell more stuff; what I dislike is commercial companies representing themselves as my friends, trying to “engage” me via social media, or otherwise pretending that our relationship is anything other than their wanting to sell me something and keeping me as a customer. I don’t want to follow a company, have them follow me, on Twitter, or anywhere else.
    Friends are friends. Business is business.

  10. Thanks for writing this. I couldn’t agree more.
    Two quotes that I think particularly hit home for me:
    “when a whole class of people who seem to exist merely to go to conferences and talk about the same things over and over again, with the same people,…I know that the party is over.”
    and Reed Gustow’s
    “I understand wanting to sell more stuff; what I dislike is commercial companies representing themselves as my friends, trying to “engage” me via social media, or otherwise pretending that our relationship is anything other than their wanting to sell me something and keeping me as a customer. I don’t want to follow a company, have them follow me, on Twitter, or anywhere else.”
    Amen.

  11. Scott,
    I have to agree with you. It is really crazy that so many people are addicted to find friends online. They stay home and spend their whole day in front of the computer to add more friends to their contact lists. On the one hand they increase their “social networking” but on the other hand they grow lonely while sitting at home. Guys, take a break and go out! Find friends and make real relationships. Touchable Friends and not just pictures of them!!!

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