I'm relatively new to social media and a light user. But I can't get over the ‘rules' of how we're supposed to use these tools. Turns out, I'm breaking most of them. I know I'm not doing it right, and I don't care.
Hear my confession of my 10 social media sins.
1. I've never used an RSS reader and I don't see why I should. I've looked into this (really) and everybody says I should, but I think they're wrong. Read Marshall McLuhan for an explanation of why. We seem to have forgotten about him, but he could kick every social media experts' ass. He said, among other brilliant things, that we have a finite capacity to perceive and the more we let in the more dulled we become. I am in a small minority here but I am right in being parsimonious about the information that comes to me. Nobody gets a steady stream into my brain. Nobody.
2. I have read and benefited from many of the “rules” of social media, but the truth is they are just conventions. As soon as you tell me it's a rule, I'm going to break it, just to see if it really is a rule. Turns out, most rules, like a lot of laws, are really just conventions. I've learned that in a bridge game it's important to respect conventions. If you don't, you won't win. But the conventions of bridge help create contracts with your partner, not the greater society (opponents). I believe in life you should challenge as many conventions as you can. This too is a game and you should keep score. (Caveat: Don't do the crime if you can't do the time.)
3. I like that life, work, learning is now one big conversation, but sometimes I don't want to converse. I value perspectives that make me think and force me to re-examine my own perspective, but I've noticed that the bigger a conversation gets, the dumber it becomes. I love that Seth Godin does not allow comments on his blog. I also love how pissed off people get that he's not following the rules. You go, Seth! Sometimes the conversation is helpful, but sometimes it just pulls you into the muck. This flies in the face of the open source/social media movement, but I'm certain that conversation has it's place, and it's place is not everywhere and all the time. Some ideas are spawned by communities banding together to solve problems, and sometimes you get an idea that you're absolutely certain is right, even when everyone is telling you you're wrong. I, for one, think you should ignore the masses and run with the idea. So what if you fail? Action yields information; inaction does not. The next version of my site will allow comments by the general public (the current one does not) but I'm planning to disable the comments feature from time to time. Maybe most of the time. Will this reduce readership? I'm willing to pay that price to not be drawn into conversations I don't want to have.
4. Facebook? Never. I'm sorry – it's me, not you. I spend my days and much of my nights trying to manage my present and my future. Connecting with people from my past?!? I'm not running from anything, but man, I just do not have the capacity in my life to open up one more pipeline. I use LinkedIn (Connect with me!) and I've recently embraced Twitter (Follow me!) – both of which I see as business apps, but Facebook? (Please, don’t friend me!) Somebody recently said that Facebook is like a lobster trap with your friends as bait. I'm staying out, but then, I live in a community where the fact that I don't have television puts me in the majority. Call me a freak, but I won't watch The Titanic, join Facebook or get cable. Ever. I’m not saying Facebook is a bad idea; I just know it's a bad idea for me. If you want to friend me, you’ll have to find me and buy me a beer.
5. I follow 25 people on Twitter. That's it. And never the same 25 people for very long. How can anyone possibly follow hundreds or thousands of people? How? I like my strategy of constantly rotating the people I follow. It keeps them interesting. Besides, I don't want any one person to play too much of a role in shaping my thinking. Do people think I'm a snob? The more important question is do people think I have something of meaning to contribute? Asking the first question implies a negative answer to the second. Don't be offended when I unfollow you. I'm just trying to keep you interesting. You should unfollow me after awhile too.
6. I don't read or follow people that I compete with. My worst nightmare is being accused of peddling the same thinking as others. I need to chart my own course and be true to my own voice. I love gaining inspiration from others, but the further they are from my space, the better. I share an office with two biologists and someone who runs a standard-setting NGO. What they do has nothing to do with what I do, but we inform each others thinking almost every week. By following others in my space I would be retreading old ground or arguing with them, letting them frame the discussion. Try it. I promise you, like giving up television, you'll miss nothing important. You'll also be closer to breaking new ground. (Caveat: My very best competitors are also my collaborators. I sip their Kool-Aid but don’t gulp it.)
7. I think it's okay to blog every day for a week, then not at all for a month – as long as you have something of meaning to say. Silence is better than noise. Content is king. If you've got it, I say distribute it whenever the hell you want. Will you suffer in readership? Perhaps, but don't let anyone convince you there are rules around this that need to be adhered to. Give me quality over quantity any day.
8. I don't want to know what you had for breakfast, but I cannot shake this urge to tell you what I had. That pretty much sums up the problem with Twitter, doesn't it? If I can master this urge, I might keep from looking like an idiot, but it's hard. It's really, really hard. (Two eggs on toast, over easy, pretty much everyday. You're welcome.) I am loving these confessions. It feels so good to say these things.
9. I don't actually know anything about social media. The fact that you've read this deep into an article written by a guy who doesn't know his subject matter is troubling. Or at least it should be, I think, but it serves to illustrate one of the problems of all these publishing platforms, doesn't it? The stuff I really do know I know better than anybody, but does that mean I should have license to pontificate on anything? Since I'm confessing what I don't know, I'll also tell you that I've played less than 300 hands of bridge in my life, but I've learned that if you drop bridge references from time to time, people think you're smart. Same with chess. I love saying “fianchetto my bishop”, but I barely know what it means. (You'll never see me use a NASCAR metaphor, but for all you know it consumes my weekends.) In some ways this is shaping up to be a ridiculous article, but I can’t get over how good it feels to admit these things. I just hope I never publish it, like that letter I wrote to President Bush and never should have mailed.
10. There's going to be a backlash to all this full-time conversation. If there isn't, I'm going to start one. I feel like we're building up to a global event of people going postal. I have a colleague who e-fasts every Sunday. No electronics whatsoever. We should do that. Just like Buy Nothing Day, we should have Twitter-Free Day. Can one of you social media types send this idea viral? Maybe put it on your FB wall, or Tweet it, Digg it, Stumble it or whatever you do? I will send a hand-written note to everyone who Spreads The Word on this idea, old school. Together, we can change the world. Maybe back to the way it used to be.
Wow, this was a really cathartic exercise. It makes me want to become a Catholic and do it every week. Now I just need to fight the urge to publish this. That would be a mistake.