Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Social Media Is The New Social Disease

I’m struggling to put into words this morning's revelation that social media – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Plaxo, Twibes, and the remaining “connectors” of which I am yet to be made aware – may quite possibly make us all very sick. I can’t prove this, of course, because it’s only an intuition. But I can make something of a case for the notion.

One of my favorite social mediaites exemplifies the manic nature of what I’m describing. I’m not going to name this gal because I have enormous respect for her talent and nothing I'm saying here is meant to impugn her. Her website, blog, Facebook page, podcasts, and tweets are stuffed with information for writers, marketers, creatives, and entrepreneurs generally. Simply following CK puts anyone on the cutting edge of social media. IMHO, she’s the best there is. So what’s the problem?

This morning, I started following some of CK’s tweets and, about an hour in, I realized I was exhausted. I couldn’t concentrate because, quite suddenly, I felt overwhelmed by the vast knowledge “out there” -- knowledge I needed, had to have, couldn't do business without! This was worse than reading an encyclo/wikipedia because here I was, exposed to a vast mob of fabulous people doing fabulous things – every day people, simple people, people just like me. They were all experts on overdrive! I felt depressed, inadequate, unable to “keep up.” I wanted to run away and I did (to write this blog).

What I experienced was real: depression, anxiety, fear, social phobia, and more. I don't believe I'm alone. I’m speculating that the human brain isn’t ready for SM (social media). Certainly, before social media reached critical mass (like it has in the year 2009) we’d never before been able to connect intimately – and intimately is the key -- to hundreds of people. But this morning, should we choose to do so, we will be invited into strangers’ thoughts, opinions, dreams, and aspirations (not to mention what their dog had for breakfast). As social beings, we’re bound to measure our own thoughts and activities against this explosion of inside information. What are we to think? Me? I think I’m on overload and I’m not sure it’s temporary.

Maybe the Swine Flu frenzy has contributed to my befuddlement. (I simply do not understand why this particular hysteria has happened. Can somebody please answer two simple questions: How is the current swine flu more dangerous than the previous swine flu? And, why is this swine flu a bigger media story than Hurricane Katrina?)

Bottomline: Something just isn’t right here and I’m thinking social media might have something to do with it. Maybe human beings just aren’t wired to deal with social circles that include hundreds of SBS (social brothers and sisters) tweeting, blogging, chatting, and obsessing (please don’t laugh. I’m serious about this).

CNet reports that about 60% of people who sign up for Twitter last only a month. Apparently, burn-out happens pretty fast. But what if your business/livelihood depends on being “socially connected” (and isn't that what every business is hearing it must do)? In my experience, there’s not a lot of room or a lot of tolerance for professionals who eschew LinkedIn or don’t blog. If you’re in the creative or marketing field, you’re expected to be SM savvy. Truth is, I'm tired.

To add to the SM heresy I’m espousing, here’s another public confession: So far, I’ve stayed away from mobile devices with keypads. I don’t even have a text messaging plan because I really don’t want to be reachable when I don’t want to be reachable. Still, I admit to having felt pretty old-fashioned sitting in meetings where everybody except me was thumbing it up (and I don’t mean that in a good way).

Look, all I’m saying here is this: In a warming global climate, are we humans beings firing up to burn out? Should we "just say no" or is survival no longer possible in a hyper-socialized world?

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