Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Social Media Circle Jerk Continues (or Why Can't I Be Aragorn, Too?)

In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Douglas Adams created one of the funniest literary jokes of all times: the idea that humans were evolved from the flotsam of the planet Golgafrincham - telephone sanitizers, television producers, hairdressers, management consultants, and the like. If he'd been faced with that today, I have no doubt that he'd have rewritten it to include that plague on the internet - the social media expert.

Before some of your expert/gurus get cranky and try to remind me that Adams used e-mail and such, allow me to point out that he did it himself, and he was actually involved with early versions of both e-mail and Usenet, and he certainly didn't need some dweeb with a bauhaus-lite website to say, "Hey, if you post more frequently, you'll keep your followers happy."* I have no doubt that he'd have a lovely snarky Facebook page and about 200,000 Twitter followers, and he simply wouldn't give a damn what these social media experts have to say.

Why? Because they have nothing to say.

Harrumph, you say! (Actually, you don't. By and large, the people that visit this site are friends and fans of mine, or are creative folks on their own. I am well aware that there are fellow writers and bloggers, a comic book creator, artists, a sculptor or two, a couple of editors, and (please God) maybe a publisher reading on this. There are photographers and graphic designers, one I believe is a painter, and one whom I believe is a multimedia artist working in the field of entropy - seriously. Creatives? Hell, yeah!)

So...harrumph, they say! And that sums up about all they have to say. Social media experts (or gurus, which is the de rigueur on Twitter, which is where they seem to be congregating) have created a niche market of their own.

In this market they declare that there is 1) a way to do things correctly, 2) people who know how to do these things, 3) that they are those people, and 4) you need these people. I've heard it described as a remora-like relationship to the shark that is the internet. I don't think that's accurate.**

My take on them is a little different. Remember, as a child, when you and a bunch of friends were hanging around, doing nothing except throwing a ball around, or pretending to shoot each other, or just making like characters from Narnia or Middle-Earth? There were no rules. You just had fun, doing what you did, letting your creativity rule the day?

Social media gurus were the twerps that showed up and decided there must be rules. You had to play baseball; you couldn't just throw a ball around. You couldn't just shoot each other; there had to be people on both sides. You can't have two Aragorns!***

Yes, those were the kids that everyone else hated. In my neighborhood, they were the kids that also got the crap beaten out of them on a regular basis, but that's neither here nor there.

Today their game is much the same. They show up and announce that there must be rules, and you must follow their rules. They post blog entries for others to read. Who reads them? For the most part, other social media experts do. What do they do then? They retweet it on Twitter**** or link to it from their blog. They mark it as "important" or "vital" to be read. Who do they send these links and retweets to? Other social media networkers. What happens? The social media circle jerk continues.

They guest-blog on each other's blogs. The host blog makes a big deal of it. The guest makes a big deal of it. Other experts point to it - it's a big deal! They put together radio shows and TV shows that are broadcast on the internet, and visit each other's shows.***** What do they talk about? How important what they do is.

My joke: How many social media gurus does it take to screw in a light bulb? 10,001: One to do the work, and 10,000 to blog about how important their work is. But I digress.

Then, to connect with the rabble (to justify their existence and to fool people into thinking they matter), they post their links and draw your attention to other parts of the internet. They send you to Digg, and YouTube, and CNN.com, and I Can Haz Cheezburger, and thousands of other sites out there. And, of course, they send you to thousands of social-media sites. Let's not forget that.

These social media experts have denoted the people that run these sites "content providers." That includes me, and anyone who has a tiny blog, website, page, or vlog. Regardless of whether or not they post links to it, anything that can be linked to is just "content."

My take on this? Go f*** yourself. I'm not a "content provider" and I'm not creating "content." I'm a writer. I write and I blog. You want to link to it, fine. I don't actually care. But don't ask me to adjust my site to make it easier for you to access my "content." It boggles the mind that these twerps need to lump everything together to comprehend it.

I think this is why they have their rules. You see their posts everywhere. "How to Use Twitter Properly," "The Rules of Facebook Etiquette," "Digg the Right Way!," "50 Ways to Increase Your Followers," and so on. Let's be clear. No one writes this crap except for social media experts. No one actually needs this crap except for social media experts. But who believes it?

A lot of people believe this. They get caught up in it. Anyone who has come recently to Facebook or Digg or Twitter is going to believe that these are actually rules - these are things they should know. They see these signs telling them this everywhere they look. They may even RT or pass along a link to one, without realize they're just helping shore up this falsehood.

But it's not true. It's an opinion, generated by a self-centered minority of those who participate, who want everyone else to play like they do.

In very recent days, Twitter has changed the way its replies work. (Don't ask me to explain further; I could care less.) It has brought out the worst in many of the social media experts. There has been a wailing, and a crying, and a gnashing of teeth from many of them. Worst yet, it precipated a hurricane of angry, self-righteous blog entries****** from these experts about how Twitter was a "social media site, and not just a chatroom."

Wow. Wrong. Twitter is, and has always been known as, a "microblogging" site. It is a place to write/blog in 140 characters or less. The initial idea was "what are you doing?" It was a way to simply communicate with people of a like mind, with friends, and with people you might find interesting. What it's not is a social media site. That's just another lie from the social media experts.

Microblogging. Small writing. Twitter was, and has been, a place to create. They're trying to change that, to add rules that no one else really wants. You know what? They can kiss my ass. Let's all be Aragorn.


*"And what's with this five-book trilogy? That doesn't make any sense. You're going to confuse people."

**Though, sticking with the nautical theme, I'd posit that they are closer to barnacles cluttering up the keel: "We make it go faster! We add color to that dull brown wood!"

***It goes without saying that these Social Media twerps always wanted to be Gandalf, right?

****Sorry, Twitter comes up a lot because I participate in it, but also because it seems to be the current ground zero for that type. I suspect that because Twitter makes it so simple to mass follow (and unfollow) people, these expert/gurus find it easier to beef up their phony reputations here, and try to parley it into a phony reputation elsewhere, than it is to start on Facebook and import their bullshit to Twitter.

*****To non-social media experts, these are called "podcasts" and "webcasts." Seemingly, only the 'experts' feel a need to shore them up as 'radio' and 'TV' shows. They're not, you batch of liars.

******Cross-referenced to other blog entries that agreed with them, of course.


  1. Can we add Online marketer to the list as well? I know it's a little different, but it's kind of the same. It strikes me as very much like Amway.

    I had this guy just follow me on Twitter who talks about expanding his social network,etc. All the stuff the "Gurus" do. His bio: "Carpenter by trade. Online marketer, Father, and gardener..."

    It smacks of RICO, Spam, Mail Fraud, and Pyramid Scheme.

  2. First off, I want to say that I found this post by googling the phrase "social media circle-jerk"

    I'm in general agreement with the argument that there are lots of self-appointed experts making a lot of fuss and adding little value in social media while logrolling one another and congratulating themselves endlessly, but I find the level of outrage a bit much.

    Every new thing that gets big has its "I was here when it was small and pure" people who bemoan any commercialization or mainstreaming. The people who liked a band's first three albums and then said they sold out.

    Especially in this economy, if an unemployed single mother can make a living teaching people who are too scared or lazy to figure it out themselves how to use twitter, who are we to call her a parasite on the internet? Eventually these consultants will either find a way to make a living at it or find something else to do.

    Some people want to be Aragorn. Some people want to sell limited-edition replicas of Andúril for the Aragorns. Some have the imagination to use a stick, some will buy the replicas.

  3. Howdy, Limeduck!

    Thanks for dropping off your $.02. Everybody gets along around here, even if we vehemently disagree - which we often do.

    You're probably right about the "level of outrage" being a bit much, but as the author, let me make a couple of minor points without arguing.

    First point: I'd guess there are about 70-80 regular readers here. About two-thirds come from Twitter. Half the remainder are old and current friends of mine, and the other half are folks who have just stumbled in here and never gone away. On Twitter, as on the blog, going a bit over the top is sorta my "schtick." It's part of the character of me. As someone who is a visitor, you wouldn't know that - and that's my bad.

    Secondly, I'm not a purist. I haven't been with Twitter or Facebook forever. I'm fairly recent, but I've done my research on it. What I am is someone who is tired of being inundated with "social media" this and "social media" that.

    Second-and-a-halfly, this is the only time I've ever commented about it. If this was a regular blog rant of mine, then you would be absolutely correct in saying the "level" of outrage is too much. This isn't really a level; it's just a spike of fury. I probably won't address it again. I've got it out of my system (though I am shamelessly pimping this out on Twitter). But I'd argue that it's not really an amount of anger more than it is a one-time event - a lashing-out, if you will.

    Thirdly, the static from the social-media experts is constant and simply overwhelming. To those of us that do hate it, it is almost smothering. But I've noticed a lot of people that hate it and say nothing; they're afraid of ticking off these people. I feel that the only real way to remind folks that not everyone buys their crap is to do so loudly - and perhaps stridently.

    Lastly, there are always exceptions. But I don't see poor single mothers working as social media gurus. I see young married white guys (for the most part) all trying to pull it off. Sure, there may be someone who NEEDS the work, and more power to them, but that doesn't really justify the field as a whole.

    I mean...I actually did know a stripper who was putting herself through nursing school. (No joke). Doesn't mean the rest are kosher. :-)

    Thanks for the comment!

  4. I could have swore that "50 Ways to Increase Your Followers" was a how-to on cult formation. I don't know why he thinks you have a heightened amount of aggression, it's not like you tossed somebody through a window or anything.

  5. Yes, I do visit and am not ashamed. Not.One.Whit. You gotta way with words, and it's garnered you another new 'follower'. (damn do I hate that term) Anyway - yes, the 'social media guru' bit makes me want to pull my hair out. Give it time, much in the same way that the economic bubbles of imagined value are bursting in the physical world, in the same manner that about a year and a half that it took many people to realize that blog-writing wasn't going to get their imagined brilliance published either - this too will fade into the dusty sunset.

  6. Nice rant! *applause*

    I agree, too. Gurus? Bah humbug. It's the classic 'if nobody knows what they're doing, set up as a guru' act. After all, no one else knows enough to know if you are, in fact, full of shit. At least, that's the theory.

    Limeduck - The thing is, very few 'gurus' teach anything useful. They just teach how to teach others how to teach others how to teach others how to teach others ... or at least claim to. They're rarely THAT useful because their linked-to sites are full of advertising and very little to no content.

    I've come across a whole two 'post a whole lotta links' tweeters who I thought were useful. One of them is @openzine, who posts links to ezines created on openzine.com. The other one is @onlinefiction - aka 'me' - who posts links to free fiction on the net. The rest are mostly irritating, uninteresting, or too bloody repetitive. In my humble opinion, of course ;-)

  7. Hi Limeduck,

    Here's my question: Who's paying said single mother? I've yet to see where any one "social media marketer" is making their money, unless it's in a very convoluted way like driving traffic to their site filled with Google AdSense ads. That's fine, actually, but a lot I've seen don't even have that. I'm not paying them, no one I know is paying them. Is there a company paying them? If so, how about some disclosure?

  8. I am still laughing outloud from this post. Classic! You are so on target with this. Awesome.

    Have you seen this thing yet: http://socialmediasummit09.com/

  9. *haw haw* ... =)
    Well, unfortunately for you i'm no Publisher nor Guru... But for sure you got my vote! ;)

  10. Holsterical, I think you're exactly right about this being a "social media" bubble. It'll pop, and these twerps will be shocked - SHOCKED! -that it came to an end.

    I'm glad to have entertained so many of you with this. :-)

    Y'all, should check out the link that thebrandbuilder posted. It is a paragon example of what I'm talking about - and arguably the most pathetic thing I've seen online in years.


  11. very true point. I'm sure, if a social medialist could, they'd assign more rules for mundane things like: burritos.

    But, I dont think they want to be Gandalf... I see them more as the evil bad Eye person. The one that controlled the orcs.

    I automatically unfollow anyone that spouts any helpful rules about anything. Especially if those rules are in the double digits. And for an internet website.

    Interesting blog, and cool looking website; might have to drop back and look at the rest of the posts! Keep up the anti-social medialist work.

  12. Imagyst,

    Thanks for the comments on the blogsite! Right now I have very few hard-and-fast rules about who I follow/follow-back.

    No bio, no site? No thank you.

    Announce you're a social media expert/guru? I no longer have time for you.

    Put TCOT in your bio? I've got enough right-wingers in my reading list without adding more.

    Lastly, if your website is a landing pad offering to give me thousands of followers, I ain't interested.

    But outside of that, I just kind of use the gut. A few offer helpful hints; they're not all bad. But, as a rule, I agree with you.


  13. I already clarified with you on Twitter that I get a hall pass to be out of the SocMed room when you blow it up...which you have done quite well.

    I say lets get a cold beer and grilled burrito sometime...we can talk about how I got 16,000 followers in 3 days for $4.95 and how you can do the same! =)

    The socmed thing is getting a bit crazy. Let them gnaw on each other. The rest of us will happily go on with our livves.

  14. Thanks, Seth. To be honest, you won't be the only one to get a hall pass. A quick perusal of the folks I follow will show a good 25-30 social media types on it. Some of them are from Eric's Army, which I take some part in. Others have been around a while. You'd know who they are. In each case, they bring something else I appreciate, whether it's a sense of humor, a personality I appreciate, a commonality we share, or just good conversation. I really do try to only hate the game, not the playas.

    That said, I've pretty much given up on following back anyone who lists SM on their bio. I've had it with that noise.

    Hey, while you're at it, can you network-marketer up me a free MacBook Air?

  15. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  16. I almost shot water out my nose reading that comment about a single mom making a living off social media. I'm that person, actually. BUT, I hate all these quacks out there claiming to be social media "gurus" and what not. There's so much pure s*** being put out there. Yes, there are a few who are great marketers and genuinely know what they are doing and how not to shove it down your throat... but that's such a tiny percentage.

    Yes, I make my living right now as a "Social Media Specialist" and lord knows I've tried to find a way to change that title so I won't get lumped in with the rest of the quacks. (Anyone have any suggestions?! I cringe at the words social media lately.) I write and have worked in marketing throughout college until now. It just so happens that because I grew up using the internet, I can teach those who are too overwhelmed that it isn't such a big scary place... or do the work for those who are too lazy.

    The way I see it, there are no rules (except the usual copyright and that sort of legal thing). My clients are corporations and small businesses, so they don't like to experiment much. I think that if an individual wants to blog or tweet (or whatever) they should just play with it... they've got nothing to lose. Businesses always need some hand holding (or someone to rip them out of the illusion that they have control of the internet), which is where I come in.

    Either way, the best advice anyone can give: be genuine and don't try to please everyone.

    As for all those "gurus", I say "don't speak unless you can improve the silence."

  17. Ms. Jenn, in the ten months since I've posted this, things have changed - to some extent. There are still social media "experts" and "gurus" out there, but I would say, by and large, many of the first-wave phonies have died off. What we seem to be left with are those from the first wave who are actually good at it, and those who came later and have learned from others' mistakes. I'd venture a guess that you're from the second group - and there is no insult in that.

    I'd also say that the random social media static had died off, but now we're swamped by crap like the current version of the SWSX festival - "All Social Media, All the Time!" It used to be about the music and the films, now it's about those pasty white boys and their iPhones, "live-tweeting" their garbage and not bothering to watch the shows.

    The world has changed, but not necessarily for the better.

    I don't doubt that you're one of the good ones. I've noted that the ones who actually UNDERSTAND and USE social media - instead of the ones who just preach it - tend to get a kick out of what I said here. Look above: Seth Simonds and the Brand Builder are both well-known experts, and both are worthy of a plateload of respect.

    If you can make a living out of you, more power to you. I believe STRONGLY in creative folks making a living doing what they want. The fact that you seem to think that social media doesn't need to craft its own rules - and force others to operate by them - speaks well of you.

    Thanks for the comment!

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