Vanity Killed the Social Media Star

15 thoughts on “Vanity Killed the Social Media Star”

  1. Sounds like VGS (Virtual Gratification Syndrome) that I started writing about years ago. The 15 minutes is not only the urge to get that time of fame, but to instantly get rewards (likes, retweets, comments) on the things you share. Seeing that counter go up is validation to some

    1. Hi Chris, many thanks for dropping by and for the wonderful commentary! My goodness! Soooo spot on! I shall remember VGS for here onwards, because I think you are right on the money with it, specially, how plenty of these media tools keep getting re-designed to trigger such kind of gratification system, with Instagram perhaps as one of its clearest examples altogether given the recent announcements on various different algorithms to ‘drive’ engagement, i.e. what you coined as VGS.

      You know what? It’s really interesting to see how, back in the day, Twitter was toying with the idea of not showing the numbers for following / followers as an opportunity to enhance both conversations and overall engagement without the vanity. Alas, they dropped the idea and went the same route as all the others. That’s why I find it a bit disappointing that all of these so-called social tools from the realm of Social Media are now transforming themselves into media tools, because it’s starting to confirm such behaviour of us becoming the media as an opportunity to always be on the spotlight, and with your addition about VGS all the more accurate! Brilliant!

      Thanks again for those wonderful comments! Much appreciated! 😀👍🏻

  2. Another terrific post, Luis … but how and where do we re-develop the conversations? For those of us blogging in the vein you advocate, there’s usually little response. Seldom comments, some RTs and likes. More exposure on Medium, but not necessarily conversation.
    However I’m not downhearted. I’m hugely encouraged to have your liberating analysis. Now to experiment with some solutions!

    1. Hi David, awww, you are very kind! Many thanks for the lovely commentary and for dropping by as well. Much appreciated. To your question I don’t think you are too far off with how you can develop those conversations. One thing is to use 2.0 social tools like blogging where you share your ideas, thoughts and experiences, and then use some of these media tools to help spread the word where you are soliciting to perhaps have the conversation back in the blog, so you can retain part of that dialogue as opposed to be forgotten in the massive river of news most media tools have turned into nowadays.

      The key thing here is to think long term vs. the short terminism from these media tools. It’s the ability to perhaps different conversations elsewhere about the topics you care about and inject some of the different write-ups you have put together in the blog as ‘additional reading’. Eventually, what you’d be trying out is entice people into having a peek into your extended brain with the stuff you blog and write about in the long form vs. the constant snacking around from media tools, but the key message, again, is focusing on the long term. For instance, just recently, upon resuming my blogging mojo I had a couple of blog posts from 6 years ago resurfacing again with additional commentary. The conversations were there, just waiting to be awoken again, which we did, and that’s what I’m starting to value more that those media snacks.

      Hope that helps! Let me know what you think, please… And thanks much for the wonderful comments!

  3. Thanks so much for writing this. I’ve been thinking about my own use of the ‘social’ web for the past two years (probably more) but haven’t put the work in to have the type of quality conversations I wish I was having. I’m sure you’ve watched Parul Sehgal talk about the currency of social media – envy. Time to exchange that for conversation. I wonder what the exchange rate is : )

    1. Hi Janet, many thanks for dropping by and for that wonderful feedback as well! Way cool! You know what? Upon reading your comments, the first part, specially, I just couldn’t help smiling a fair bit about that introspective exercise you did about how you make use of these social tools, because it tells, quite clearly, you have, at least, tried it out, while vast majority of other people just can’t be bothered as they feel comfortable with a status quo that doesn’t challenge their mindset or behaviours. But that’s what they take for granted, because they just can’t answer for themselves the following question: Why bother?

      Thanks a lot as well for pointing to Parul’s talk on the currency of social media and envy. I must say, back in the day, when I watched it, I was a bit shocked by her pitch more than anything else, because, in a way, she was justifying, perhaps, one of the pernicious, damaging and useless forms of self-destruction we humans ‘invented’.

      And it’s too funny her mention of Instagram as an example of such jealousy and what triggers, because we keep seeing those very same self-destructive behaviours, mostly with celebrities and their fans, but also with other folks who just continue to pretend to be who they are not, so they appear to be cool, to their friends and all.

      I strongly believe the exchange rate for conversation is authenticity and honesty, as well as openness and transparency, leaving envy and jealousy behind, more than anything else, because of their damaging power of the self. Frankly, we don’t need the damage, but the healing process and I can’t think of a better option that the healing power of a true, honest conversation triggered within your trusted networks to help augment and unleash the potential of using social tools to help us connect, learn and share with other peers. But, for that to happen, we need to leave jealousy behind us or it will continue to destroy us as we have seen with recent examples.

      Thanks much, once again, for the wonderful feedback!

  4. Another great post, Luis. I’m coming at this from having been a part of that Web2.0 world 10 +/- years ago that you talk about, stepped away from for 6-7 years, and am now coming back to the changed environment of this media frenzy you are so passionately excoriating in your recent posts. Sometimes I wonder what in the hell happened while I was gone.

    I almost feel I need to shower after I retweet something on Twitter or save yet another infographic to Pinterest. But I’ve been told that recruiters and hiring managers want to see a “social media presence”. Being in job search mode I hold my nose and click that button and hope my presence grows. It’s all about media and you are right to say that the social conversation tools in many cases have become media tools.

    But I also hesitate to blame the tools. I don’t have much love to give Twitter, but I have quickly come to value Tweet Chats. Talk about an raw, simple conversation. I’m also currently participating in a “challenge” hosted in Yammer that is blowing my mind and very true to our Web2.0 legacy. And I’ve resurrected my blog to share my exploration of what is happening in workplace learning and to work out loud.

    I think the challenge is to continue to find the places we can have the open, free conversations while the media storm rages on else where. (kinda like Web 2.0 enabled when it was new).

    1. Hi Dave, thanks a lot for dropping by and for the superb comments! Whoahhh! I enjoyed the entire discourse you have shared above and I think you better than anyone else to see how much things have morphed over the course of time from when you were heavily involved over 10 years ago, then after the 6 or 7 year break period, and back again. I bet it feels like two completely different worlds and for a good reason altogether! Mind-blowing, I can tell!

      Either way, welcome to the Blogosphere! I have just added your blog to my currently being updated blogroll that I will share across when I feel it’s got enough meaningful reads it’d be worth while sharing it across as well. Thus stay tuned for when that happens, as I will be blogging about it heh

      Please do allow me to add a couple of comments as additional reflections to your wonderful feedback comments shared above … Glad you noticed my passionate excoriating about current media tools. If anything, I can tell you it’s been incredibly liberating and cathartic to blog about these issues, more than anything else for my own sanity.

      The evolution of social media into just media has been brutal and I always felt I need a space where I could slow down myself to reflect on how much things have changed, for the worse!, in terms of the so-called social networking tools we once all thought would be changing the world, but that, instead, they have managed to showcase and expose our very own dysfunctional behaviours. This is not the Social Web I signed up nearly 20 years ago! And don’t take me wrong, exposing those dysfunctional behaviours is a good thing, a MUCH NEEDED THING, what worries me the most about these media tools is that no-one seems to want to do anything about it and I, frankly, got tired of being part of the circus for the pleasure and enjoyment of those who already enjoy the dysfunctional Social Web. No, thanks! I think we can all do better things, like you are showcasing with those wonderful examples of how you are re-entering the social spaces to enhance your digital presence to find a job that would be a good, proper fit for your amazing talents.

      I am with you that I wouldn’t want to necessarily blame the tools. They are not to be blamed for everything, it’s actually our very own behaviours and mindset that I’m rebelling and protesting against, because it’s showing, and big time, how we may not have learned much in the last 22 years since we started to have social software tools available to us. Yes, 22 years?!?!?! from the first instances of both blogs and wikis. It’s unreal!

      The thing is though that as much as we got to blame for our very own behaviours and mindset, most of those media tools are to blame somewhat as well, because, if anything, they have augmented and potentiated those dysfunctional behaviours, instead of helping us address them and revert course. And they haven’t done so, because of their own profit, as those misbehaviours are the ones that drive huge traffic, therefore huge revenue, and it’s no longer in their interests to want to change the world, become the ‘Pulse of the Planet’, but, instead, just be the tabloid that tolerates all of the rubbish that goes on in the online world, as much as the real world.

      This has been a rather tough blog post for me to put together, because I heart and keep aspiring to the true potential of what all of these media tools could do when turning ‘social’ (=partnerships), but, alas, I, finally, came to terms with a decision I may, or may not, regret over time, which is that I have just decided to stop being part of a circus of nonsense and blabber that we have made of all of these media tools, just craving for attention, recognition and what not, but by exhibiting our misbehaviours because that’s what drives, again, traffic. No, I am sorry, but that’s not my game, at all. Why I decided to stop playing the game and go back to basics to instigate in my own brain, first, that true Web 2.0 spirit I know it’s still hiding in there, hoping that if it comes out I can still regain some confidence we can revert due course. Your examples of activities you are engaging in confirm there is hope, Dave, there is hope 😀

      Glad to see you back in the Internet blogosphere and look forward to further conversations! Many thanks for the fantastic feedback! I much enjoyed it! 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

  5. Thanks Luis.

    Deep down we all know that what you are saying is true. Maybe it does not apply to the 100% of our social activities, but still to the majority. Do you think this is something we can contain or influence? My fear is that mass trends can not be changed in social media given the very nature of what you are raising. Vanity does not look at others to be told how to behave or to get netiquette advice. It just looks at likes and shares. It’s a global cultural trend. Let’s think where it will get us and pick the bright side.
    Happy to continue the conversation in person when you pop in Madrid. Isn’t that a step forward?

    1. Hi Gabriele, thanks a bunch for dropping by and for the superb commentary! Way too cool and much appreciated! You know, you bring up a very very good question I’m not too sure I’d have an answer for. Do I think this is something we can contain or influence? Well, I am really hoping so!, because otherwise we may be proving, once again, and for the zillion time, we may not have learned anything form the last 3,000 years, and technology this time around won’t be saving us! No, seriously, I think both technology and ourselves can do a lot more to mitigate and contain self-importance. It’s going to be a combination of both tech and sociology the one that’s going to help us evolve, but for that to happen we are the ones who need to step forward a fair bit.

      I’ll give you an example I mentioned above briefly as well. Imagine that Twitter all of a sudden would drop the counts of Followers / Following as well as tweets and retweets. Imagine, in a way, it turns itself into some kind of Slack-like app. Do you think you would be quitting the app just like that or continue making use of it because of its value? I’d venture to state you’d go for the latter. I know vast majority of other people wouldn’t and that’s where the problem lies. It’s these media tools feeding that vanity, but the thing is that once you stop feeding it you’ll move on to better things, I am certain. The problem is that we keep feeding it and more and more by the day!

      Another way of looking into it, from the sociology point of view, is this other one, with an example as well. In Denmark they are running these experiments (see here for more details) where they are teaching kids how to build on their empathy skills, i.e. putting themselves in the shoes of their peers trying to help solve their problems, and in here you can see vanity has got very little to do. We need to go right that heart of it, i.e. education, and show and teach our kids there is a different world they can aspire to! We need to stop educating young kids to think when they grow up they can be a famous footballer or a popular film star, or whatever other vanity metric driven profession. Instead, we should probably invest more in showing other much more important aspects of our very own humanity, with which I’m certain we would be much better of, don’t you think?

      So, to your question, I think we can do something about it, to influence or tame the vanity beast, but it won’t be something that impacts just media tools per se (technology), but also the people aspect (sociology) and that all starts with educating everyone on their strengths and not necessarily on their weaknesses (yes, vanity is a sickening weakness, if you ask me 😜).

      Ohhh, and you are to meet up in Madrid next time I’m there we can discuss this very much in detail over coffee or a drink. You choose 😀👍🏻

      Thanks much, once again, for the wonderful feedback!

  6. Excellent points Luis. And if I recall correctly this was just the thing we were discussing on Twitter together months ago. A conversation about the death of conversing. ironic isn’t it all. What I said then and I repeat is more and more people are “selling”. Selling products, selling services, selling ideas and mostly themselves as experts in that area. Everyone can blog. But blogging has taken on a different purpose than the early days, it’s been perverted into a business because the right attention leads to opportunity. In the early days it was a reflective process, an open diary of sorts to share thoughts and ideas and receive input, feedback and criticism. Blogging, like conversing online was raw, wrought with grammar and punctuation errors, its tone varied post to post but… but if you wanted “readers”, regular reader you followed a formula and let go of yourself. Twitter, still my favorite vehicle for conversing globably has followed suit. I find more people dodge controversy, dodge debate for fear that they might be seen as less of an expert and thus lose their Big Chance. I see supposed social experts writing posts where the influence by others before them is obvious but they credit knowone.

    Listen, I’m not trying to say I’m some social saint. My writing is consistent and I seek readers not for opportunity or to gain a competitive edge but to gain confirmation or criticism for my thoughts and approaches to help me understand and ultimately help my organizations. If doors open, great but thats not WHY I do it and there are still other who think/do the same.

    A last point. You said “hungry-for-our-data” regarding tools and you are very correct and sadly that same mentality has entered the organization as data is tied to every move one makes in the new social tools. Who’s speaking most, sharing most, the loudest get the attention. They all get rewarded and then the game is on!

    No question we are evolving and hopefully the pain of increased noise and gamifying the experiences reverse but alas social, being uniquely human is not all “good”, social is emotional, its illogical, its selfish, its altruistic, its just an extension of the human condition

    1. Hi Mark, thanks a million for taking the time to share along that superb feedback! I do appreciate it very much! I am going to agree with you regarding your point about selling, but judging on what I am seeing day in day out I’m going to take the liberty of stating that mostly what I’m seeing is people selling themselves and not necessarily as experts in that area, quite the opposite. The massive hoarding, and protection, of their own knowledge and expertise is just tremendous to the point where they are being far too social about everyone else’s content by regurgitating it from their own voices vs. sharing their own original thinking and thought leadership in whatever their subject matter. It’s a bit disappointing, because I do still remember the good old days of plenty of social tools where people would share their knowledge and expertise with generosity as a wonderful opportunity to connect, build and nurture their own social networks and personal business relationships. All of that seems to be gone now, sadly.

      RE: ’Everyone can blog’, you know, there used to be a time, back in the day, where I would say the very same thing, but nowadays I am not so sure, because otherwise everyone would be blogging and I just don’t see it. I actually think that most of the blogging I’ve been exposed to so far is mostly reflective, thoughtful and elaborated, which is why I think for most people out there it just won’t happen, more than anything else because of time. Things have been speeding up so badly that most don’t even have the opportunity to think and pause, reflect accordingly in the long form. Instead, they have switched automatically into snacking around with tidbits here and there just to showcase their own presence as mentioned above, but very little original thought leadership out there. The good old mantra of open knowledge sharing from the Web 2.0 spirit seems to have been missing for a good couple of years, if not longer!

      RE: ’I find more people dodge controversy, dodge debate for fear that they might be seen as less of an expert’ , you may well be rather accurate, but I think it’s also due to the fact that most people don’t feel comfortable exhibiting dissent, healthy debate or critical thinking (as I have blogged over over here), because they want to get along with everyone hoping some of the breadcrumbs would fall behind for them and therefore generate some revenue. Yes, I know it’s sad, but I have seen it happening far too often and it still baffles me a fair bit. I wish more people would embrace more critical thinking as a learning opportunity while still being respectful and willing to participate in the conversations. We would need to work harder on that one to entice people to shift gears. It’s an important part of the online discourse, if you ask me, and you know it better than anyone else, because you practise it beautifully on Twitter and in your own blog as you mentioned above.

      RE: ’They all get rewarded and then the game is on!’ Well, what can I say? Every time there is a game on, there is an opportunity by those very same people to game it just for the reward itself and it’s something that’s just been there from the very early days of KM, over 25 years ago. I just wish people would understand, perhaps once and for all, that incentives, games, rewards, specially, tangible ones just don’t work, and I know I may be preaching to the choir, but it’s amazing that here we are, 2016, and we are still having this conversation #lesigh

      Finally, I think you are on to something when you describe ‘social’ in that last paragraph, but I think we are missing on the great opportunity of the true origins of ‘social’ (as I mentioned, ’socius’ = partnership). Yes, social is emotional, illogical, selfish, altruistic, part of the human condition, but it’s also about openness, about honesty, authenticity, purpose, helping others, open knowledge sharing, collaboration, but, above all, it’s all about caring and empathy, and right now in the vast majority of our social interactions in media tools that’s all missing and big time. And why I’m no longer that keen on feeding a sickly system that needs plenty of healing, because the system itself doesn’t understand, nor acknowledge, it needs lots of healing. Some times I suppose we just need to stop feeding the dinosaurs and let them die a slow, painful death for something better to come up … Time will tell …

      Thanks much, once again for the fantastic contributions! Looking forward to upcoming conversations, because I’m sure this is not the last time we will be talking about this topic 😀👍🏻

  7. Hi Luis, I really recognize this – since my twitter list has grown.. But it is not necessarily a bad things but more how various online space cristalyze with their own affordances. I think it simple demonstrates that we still need bounded communities. That social media communities are often very loose and fluid.

    1. Hi Joitske, thanks ever so much for the lovely feedback comments and for the tweet love as well! It’s greatly appreciated 😀👍🏻

      I couldn’t have agreed more with you in terms of the huge need of bounded communities, or even loose & fluid ones, more than anything else because with all of these media tools we have started to have everything BUT communities.

      Communities are supposed to be open (as in available and accessible to everyone) spaces, where members can foster, nurture, build and cultivate personal business relationships, mostly based on caring about one another, learning, connecting and a mutual share of empathy, yet, if you look into all of these media tools we have got a bit of everything, except the nutrients for those online communities, and it’s really a pity, because back when social networking tools started to kick in over 20 years ago it was all about building those networks and communities and somehow we seemed to have lost it all along the way.

      So I don’t think this is a mere issue that can be ignored, nor accepted, that is, the transition from social media tools into just media tools, if we would want to bring back the true spirit of the so-called Web 2.0 and that was part of the reasoning behind this blog entry, to reflect on where we lost it along the way and how we may be able to bring it back and I think you have pretty much nailed it on the head on the need to nurture and build on those online communities. Alas, we know the tools are not going to do anything about it, since they have never done it. It’s going to be down to us to decide whether we would want to build them and stop being right at the centre of the spotlight, or whether we’d just continue to be vain enough to no longer care. The choice, as usual, is ours and ours alone.

      And so far we seem to have chosen the wrong option towards saving all of these social media tools, because we seem to be enjoying far too much those 15 minutes of (fake) fame 🙄. Either way, we can still revert it back to what it was, but it will need plenty of hard work from us all where we need to collectively step up the game, if we would want to save ourselves from ourselves 😜

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