A couple of days ago, the always insightful Shel Israel put together in his Forbes column one of those rather interesting and thought-provoking articles that will surely shake the ground for the vast majority of those folks who may have been advocating for social networking tools out there on the Social Web as the next big thing. In “Is Social Media Becoming a Vast Wasteland?” he comes to question whether the golden age for the Social Web is now over after that initial period of disruption and whether we are starting to enter that dangerous road of becoming a vast wasteland, just like TV is nowadays, I suppose.
And he does bring up a very good point as he clearly states on the following quote that I extracted from his article which would be rather relevant to include over here in this post:
“Social media is now approaching that very same fork. You’ve seen the evidence yourself: Companies with the largest online presence are messing with our personal data, traditional marketers are shouting messages rather than building relationships. Our social streams are being polluted by scammers, spammers, phishers, groupies and people who are not who they claim to be“
Indeed, in the last few months we have seen how a good number of social networking tools keep ravaging some of our primary rights, whether those related to privacy, copyright infringements, or whatever else, as well as keeping up with a continued deterioration of the overall user experience, even with beautiful social computing experiences like Pinterest or Path, as perhaps the most recent examples. Yet, very little seems to be happening in order to prevent the Social Web to become the new vast wasteland.
Very worrying, indeed, because it looks like what we once thought was a rather rampant and unstoppable open innovation taking place all over with an incredibly rich ecosystem of social networking sites, is now turning itself into that mantra that is becoming more and more popular by the day: “If you are not paying for it, you are the product“. And, in that case, that our product for those social networking sites is nothing else than our (private) data. Our precious data that we seem to have sacrificed and neglected altogether tremendously for the sake of just being there because it’s the trend, the hype, the buzz we seem to be thriving on lately. Pinterest anyone? Path? Again, just quoting a couple of recent examples, but perhaps even our very own smartphone devices!
Shel keeps wondering on that article about whether we are just too late in the game to revert that trend and make a stand to stop it and get back on track, once again; but at the same time he is already hinting our potential way out: “I really don’t know how this comes out. I wish it were up to me but it is not. It is up to us” and I do believe he is just spot on! It’s up to us to make it change. It’s up to us to continue redefining our own overall social media experiences to match our needs and wants and not of those who keep providing us with those social networking sites. It’s up to us to protest, rebel, and make a stand towards those providers of the services that not everything goes, that they need to religiously continue to respect and protect their killer advantage: their end-user base (with their data), because failure to do that would probably mean that people will finally take a stand, as mentioned above, and stop making use of those social tools altogether and move elsewhere, like blogging, where things seem to be thriving now more than ever before.
That’s the primary reason why I haven’t bought into Pinterest or Path just yet. That’s why I’m handling with a pinch of salt Twitter, Google Plus and whatever other mobile Apps I access through my smartphone or even my MacBook Air. That’s why I keep questioning the validity of social networking out there in the open if we cannot longer be at the center of the interactions. We as in the people themselves. The core aspect of social networking and the good old Web 2.0 (Remember?) that plenty of SNS vendors keep forgetting (Including Enterprise Social Software ones), apparently, is not the fancy features or beautiful experiences you keep building, but eventually the group of people who extend the original use you had envisioned with plenty of additional uses and behaviours that no-one, not even you, as the vendor, expected in the first place! That is what makes social networking exciting, different and unique from everything else we have done in the past. And perhaps a good reminder of where we would need to continue heading, versus that wasteland.
And what a better way of keeping up the good fight and reminding those social networking site vendors what we would want social media tools to be than finishing off this blog entry with a quote from a recent tweet that Andrew Carusone shared across that surely describes the transition that we ALL need to do. You know, Andrew doesn’t tweet that often, but when he does, you better sit back, pay attention and read further on, because he’s usually spot on! In this case, he is talking about Social Business, but you could as well extrapolate it to the Social Media world:
Social Business success requires a culture which rewards “first to share” not “first to succeed”.
— Andrew Carusone (@acaruson) February 28, 2012
Perhaps we may be heading into that vast wasteland for social media, who knows, time will tell, i guess, but then again, just like Shel hinted in his Forbes piece, it’s up to us, the end-users, to decide whether we would want to go that road or not; it’s going to be our decision to make, not someone else’s, not even those vendors or providers of the service, whether we would want to reward, as Andrew stated nicely above, the first to share rather than the first to succeed. Think about it. It’s our choice, not theirs, indeed. Let’s not spoil it. Again.