Are Bloggers Fake? Read on “My Friend”…

social media fake friendshipsSince when does social = instant friendship, instant karma, or an instant connection?

In our offline lives, doesn’t it take time to build relationships, build rapport, to earn respect?

Then why am I finding it increasingly annoying the number of bloggers who, in no time at all, call me friend, bro, or buddy?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve have met a crazy amount of awesome people who are bloggers, and I have a great amount of respect for them and a sincere interest in our relationships.

I would even call some of them my friends, and feel good about saying it.

I don’t want to offend those who have called me by those terms of endearment.  Perhaps they really feel that way.  Or perhaps this is all they know by today’s online standards.

Just know, that whether I say it or don’t, my actions here are sincere, with only the best intentions in mind.

How did this come to be?

Recently, there have been some terrific articles written on the dangers of social inflation.  Marcus Sheridan did a fantastic job of tackling the issue. Here is an excerpt from his post:

In case you haven’t noticed, our government has a little problem. You see, over the past few years they’ve been printing dollar bills faster than Heinz makes ketchup, and despite what we’re all lead to believe, this process has only one ending—Inflation. That’s right, prices will go way up because the value of a dollar bill will go way down, all because there are too many of the dang things floating around out there.

I tell you this my friends because there is another inflation alive and well in our midst, and it’s that of blog comments, and the culprit is an upstart organization called Livefyre.

Jack Steiner of The Jack B also followed up with a terrific rebuttal to Marcus’s post.

You really should read the post and come back but I’ll try to sum it up for those who don’t.  Marcus goes on to discuss whether tools like LifeFyre and Triberr have artificially inflated tweets and comments to the point where they have been devalued. He also says that he expects that one day he will move from the native WP commenting platform but that for now he won’t because he thinks that people might be intimidated by it.

Marcus is a sharp guy and quite successful but I think that he is missing the boat on this one. The majority of most blog readers never or very rarely comment on posts. They don’t for a multitude of reasons that often have little to do with the system and more to do with other things. Some people are intimidated by posts that have large numbers of comments or appear to be populated by cliques. Some people don’t comment because they feel that they have nothing to add to the conversation or just because they don’t.

If there is one thing that is alive and kickin’ in blogger land, it is thought transparency (the idea behind me being able to write this post) and timely, provocative discussions!  Well done Marcus and Jack!

My thought on this, is that just like the escalating social inflation of tweets and blog comments, there is an equally rising and unfortunate inflation in the “fakeness” of our online relationships.

I believe the reason to be two-fold.

The Power and Pervasiveness of our Online Communities

The greatest strength of our blogging community is also our biggest enemy.  Some people will write just to write, and that is okay, but I think you would agree that as bloggers, we all want a large readership and community.

The problem with having an extensive blog community is keeping up with engagement.  After all, the whole idea behind social media is engagement.

Once again I’ll take it back to offline life.  In your world, how many people can you truly engage with on a deep, personal level?  I know for me, the answer is not many.

So the whole notion is that to grow a huge community, you must engage.  At some point, that level of deep engagement has to ween.  I know there are some who do it extremely well.  Take the recently deceased Trey Pennington.  I only bring up this tragedy because of the outpouring of Trey’s community, that they felt so connected to him, even with it’s vast size.

In reaction to his friends death, Mark Schaefer of Businesses Grow wrote an excellent post on The Problem with Personas, about the artificiality of our online relationships.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about to try make sense of my experience in this situation is the artifice of the personal brand and our online personas.

In the old days (10 years ago) our only real option to build meaningful relationships was through personal interface.  Yes, there were opportunities to create “social validation” in the physical world by having diplomas on your walls, or by the type of car you drive, but we all still had an opportunity to assess a person in a meeting, over lunch, in their home.

Today many of us depend on building dozens, hundreds, even thousands, of weak connections through the social web and chances are, we never do get to meet these folks in real life. There is an intense pressure to create unblemished personal brands by carefully crafting our online image with badges of power and success.  Followers. Likes. Tweets. Klout.

You also hear all the stories of hired hands.  Like astroturfers, who synthetically comment on blogs, these might well be call astro-engagers.  They are hired to engage a community which is just too enormous in size to humanly engage with.  The problem here is the lack of transparency, the truth not being told for fear of losing followers.

More online fakeness….

Community on Auto-Pilot

Adding to the this social dilemma; the need for followers, the need for reach, and the need are interaction, is the software that has been created to automate the system of community growth.

Some services would include (in no particular order): Tweetbig, Triberr, Hootesuite, Tweetdeck, SocialOomph.  The list could go on and on.

And no, it’s not the fault of the software developers.  We, as a whole are screaming for these products and services.  Always looking for the “one” that is going to make growth and engagement easier.

Again, what’s happening along the way is a decrease in meaningfulness; in tweets, in retweets, and online relationships.  It’s the gaming of the system.

Fewer Clients, Less Money

Jerry Maguire said it best. Okay, Cameron Crowe wrote it best, and this is how we can fix the meaningfulness of our online relationships.how to improve your online relationships

We should not worry about the numbers, but how well, and how deep are we engaging with our community.

And it’s also okay if a relationship is not there, without a spark, without a connection.  We don’t need to put on a facade.  We just need be polite, and move on.

Based on this idea of less is more, I look forward to meeting you, engaging, getting to know you, and then let’s see where it goes from there :)

Batter Up!

How does this post resonate with you?  Do you think this online “fakeness” exists?  Is it a necessary evil?  What else can we do as a blogging community to overcome this path?

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19 Responses to Are Bloggers Fake? Read on “My Friend”…

  1. Jack@TheJackB September 7, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

    Hi Adam. I think that you have an interesting point. Online relationships sometimes develop faster than IRL because of the “content” we share. We have a tendency to disclose more personal things online and do so faster than we would in person.

    It creates a feeling of closeness, intimacy and community rather quickly. Sometimes it is warranted and the friendships are just as real as they would be anywhere else- other times not so much.

    It is hard. If you want to build a community you really have to spend time engaging/interacting with others and sometimes it is done somewhat artificially. Not sure that this is the intent, but sometimes it is the result.
    Jack@TheJackB recently posted..It is Called LifeMy Profile

    • Adam Sokoloff
      Adam Sokoloff September 9, 2011 at 10:50 am #

      Hey Jack, I think you make a rather good point here. I think that online relationships do develop faster because of our tendency to have A.D.D. due to the sheer number of people and messages. Either way, I think it would be a good practice to be aware of the artificiality to be able to combat it.

      Thanks for chiming in and for posting such a terrific article! -Adam
      Adam Sokoloff recently posted..The #1 Overlooked Small Business Website Traffic and Conversion Opportunity (You are Kinda Already Doing)My Profile

  2. Adrienne September 8, 2011 at 4:43 pm #

    Hey Adam,

    Good post my “friend”! That’s a term of endearment from this Texas girl! :-) But, we have been interacting for a little while and I hope that you consider me a friend. I can see your point though so some people who take this action have never taken the time to speak to each other outside of blog commenting.

    On to the subject at hand. I have to admit that I’ve only come across one person up to this point who I quickly learned was “fake”. He was only in this for himself and could care less about anyone other than him. I wasn’t the only one who encountered this so I know they are out there.

    I have personally connected with so many wonderful people since starting my journey online and some of them I’ve actually had the pleasure of meeting in person as well. Have also continued the conversations in email, via Skype or on the phone. For now they may be considered just acquaintances but I can see them turning into real friendships. At least from where I stand.

    Great points you made Adam, very well done. At least you got Jack’s input on this post. Glad he chimed in!

    Adrienne
    Adrienne recently posted..Are Your Followers Seeing Your Tweets?My Profile

    • Adam Sokoloff
      Adam Sokoloff September 9, 2011 at 10:56 am #

      Adrienne, I have to tell you that the politically correct side of me was dreading hitting the publish button with this post. I didn’t want to offend, and you immediately came to mind! Glad you did not take it that way.

      I think another reason that we may use terms of endearment early in the bonding process is because the written word and it’s lack of tone and body language. Words can be taken so many ways because of it. There are only so many ways to communicate that appreciation and connection.

      Either way, I’m glad to have this Texas girl as a friend!
      Adam Sokoloff recently posted..When Disaster Strikes Your Small Business: The Power of Persistence, Community, and your Network.My Profile

      • Adrienne September 9, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

        You sure didn’t offend me. People either accept me for who I am or not! I’m just a friendly type person and have always been that way. So those types of things don’t offend me at all. I know people are different and they definitely have their own opinions. So all is well with us my “friend”! :-)

        Have a great day Adam and don’t forget to send some of that rain our way. I continue to pray for the rain Gods…
        Adrienne recently posted..Are Your Followers Seeing Your Tweets?My Profile

        • Adam Sokoloff
          Adam Sokoloff September 9, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

          Consider it done. I’m ordering up some rain pronto!

          So cool that you know who you are, and that people will take you for who you are or won’t…and you’re good with it. A very good trait indeed!

          Have a great weekend Adrienne!
          Adam Sokoloff recently posted..How to Rock Your Blogging Efforts on a Rainy Sunday!My Profile

  3. Tyler Hurst September 8, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

    Depends on what they write about.

    I have a blog that gets a paltry 4k hits a month and about that many twitter followers.

    Go read what I post. Does that make me fake?
    Tyler Hurst recently posted..A meaningful life – State Of Illusion Movie ReviewMy Profile

    • Adam Sokoloff
      Adam Sokoloff September 9, 2011 at 11:11 am #

      Hey Tyler, thanks for stopping by! Looking at your blog, no I don’t think you’re fake. I’d certainly like to get to know you and your blog better.

      I don’t think I was really aiming at what bloggers are writing in their posts, but more of the interaction between them. Maybe it’s ’cause I’m a east coast city boy, but it typically takes us longer to warm up to people. It’s not that we aren’t warm, but we often don’t show it as quickly.

      Great having you here and for being part of this discussion! -Adam
      Adam Sokoloff recently posted..The Five Biggest Website Secrets of A-List BloggersMy Profile

  4. Esther van der Wal September 9, 2011 at 4:50 am #

    I think these days, many people are desperately searching for real connections and building a true community, not just to raise numbers. To me personally, there’s no difference between my online and offline life. I quickly steer away from posers, online personas, fake blown-up people whose smile isn’t real and whose words are only out there to have as many people as possible click on them. I’ve recently written an article on online authenticity and I’d love to write a lot more on our online/offline identities, being true vs. fake and persons vs. personas.
    Esther van der Wal recently posted..The Ups & Downs of Showing Your Dark SideMy Profile

    • Adam Sokoloff
      Adam Sokoloff September 9, 2011 at 11:21 am #

      Esther, I agree that this will be a very hot topic for some time to come. In the evolution of “reach”, I think that this period up until now will be called “More Filling, Tastes like Crap” , with many communities that are just built on sheer numbers instead of quality engagement and interaction.

      It’s very interesting to me when you see the likes of a Chris Brogan drop 100,000 followers all of a sudden. With 190,000 followers at this point, does he really need them? Or the other hand, did he “use” them to help build his community that large? Some things to really think about…

      Thanks for coming by. I’m looking forward to checking out your blog!

      -Adam
      Adam Sokoloff recently posted..When Disaster Strikes Your Small Business: The Power of Persistence, Community, and your Network.My Profile

  5. Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion September 10, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    Adam, very interesting post man. Are there fake online relationships? Yeah, sure, just like the many fake real life relationships we have. ‘Back scratching’, whether anyone wants to admit it or not, is required . It happens in corporate America…in small businesses…and in the blogosphere too.

    Trey’s death was tragic, no doubt, but I don’t look at it and question everything. Trey’s ‘irl’ friends are likely asking their own questions right now. So on or offline, I think the principle doesn’t change.

    I’ve made serious friends online. I’ll make more. Some relationships will fade away. But the same happens in normal life. To me, they’re no differences here.

    Cheers brother, nice thought provocation here,

    Marcus
    Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion recently posted..A Review of Content Marketing World 2011: The Movement Has BegunMy Profile

    • Adam Sokoloff
      Adam Sokoloff September 17, 2011 at 9:07 am #

      Hey Marcus, I think in the end, the point of my post was ‘let’s keep it real’. I know sometimes you have to do some “back scratching”, but I would hope people are really being themselves.

      “I’ve made serious friends online. I’ll make more. Some relationships will fade away. But the same happens in normal life. To me, they’re no differences here.”

      This is a very true statement, an well said! I don’t think I could think of any given person who hasn’t lost and gained some friends along this thing we call life.

      Jack B made a great point of how online, things can develop much more quickly becasue of the speed of engagement. I guess our BS detectors will also start ringing faster as well if needed!

      Thanks for the insightful comment man! -Adam
      Adam Sokoloff recently posted..The Great Social Media Scam! What the Experts and Gurus Fail to Tell You!My Profile

  6. Dee Ann Rice September 12, 2011 at 4:40 pm #

    Adam,

    I like your post.

    I think there is a lot of fakeness (I know that is not a word but it seemed to work here) going on in the online community.

    I think that online relationships lend themselves to being fake for those who want to use them that way.

    I have tried to avoid the fake relationships for the most part but have used some of the automated programs to try to make using the social networks easier. I am trying to go through my social networks and get rid of the people that only want me as a friend to increase their numbers and keep the ones that I can make a connection with.

    I think some bloggers are fake but not all. There are those out there that are very sincere and real.

    I have made some real friends online as well.

    Thanks for a great post.

    Dee Ann Rice
    Dee Ann Rice recently posted..How To Upload A Video To A Blog PostMy Profile

    • Adam Sokoloff
      Adam Sokoloff September 17, 2011 at 9:19 am #

      Hi Dee Ann,

      “I am trying to go through my social networks and get rid of the people that only want me as a friend to increase their numbers and keep the ones that I can make a connection with.”

      To me Dee Ann, this is one of the biggest things I struggle with. On one hand, there are many experts who tell us that it’s all about the size of your reach. Then on the other, there are those who tell us that it’s all about the quality of your reach. If I had 100,000 followers on Twitter, but they never engage, are the numbers worth it? Conversely, if the 100,000 don’t engage, but they share my content, is it worth it?

      Maybe I’m over-reacting to this “fakeness” issue and it’s my city upbringing that keeps my 24/7 BS detector going. I’m trying to see the good in people more and more, if there’s fakeness, it will eventually be revealed.

      Thanks Dee Ann! -Adam
      Adam Sokoloff recently posted..The Great Social Media Scam! What the Experts and Gurus Fail to Tell You!My Profile

  7. pea September 13, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    Yes I think this online fakeness exists, but so it also exists in real life. I don’t really see it as such a big deal personally.

    When you meet someone insincere in ‘the real world’ you simply don’t engage and move on. I also couldn’t imagine fretting that someone called me their friend the first time I met them, online or offline as it is a throwaway term of endearment, which I would prefer to a curse.

    It is not hard to spot a genuine person and those people I really enjoy connecting with, but also occasionally I learn from people who are there to merely drop a link and move on. Not every relationship is meant to be a deep, profound one. Is there really a problem with that…er, buddy? (Couldn’t resist). :)
    pea recently posted..Don’t Just Believe…My Profile

    • Adam Sokoloff
      Adam Sokoloff September 17, 2011 at 9:25 am #

      Pea, as always you bring simplicity to the chaos in my mind! Thank you.

      “I also couldn’t imagine fretting that someone called me their friend the first time I met them, online or offline as it is a throwaway term of endearment, which I would prefer to a curse.”

      So true lol. I could hear it now. “So nice to meet you Ass&*$#”

      The link droppers very easy to spot, which is why I typically tend to moderate the first comment. As a newer blog, I certainly appreciate having any comments, but I’d much rather have realness and fewer, that fakeness and more.

      Thank Pea for the insight. I really appreciate it. -Adam
      Adam Sokoloff recently posted..The Great Social Media Scam! What the Experts and Gurus Fail to Tell You!My Profile

  8. Vic September 22, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

    Hi Adam,

    I’m sure you already realized that this post is mildly to moderately controversial.

    With that being said, I think, to certain degree there is online fakeness go around in the blogosphere. Like Jack that earlier, I don think it’s intentional.

    I do think it is easier to make friends online then in the offline world because people have a tendency to express themselves better in writing then they do verbally.

    If you are personally feeling the effects of the fakeness, it’s probably because you have great content and people want to know you better.

    I think this a lot to do with popularity. People always want to befriend the popular. I would take it as a compliment.

    Glad to be part of the convo!
    Vic recently posted..How To Get What You Want Out Of Life Now, And Not Years From NowMy Profile

    • Adam Sokoloff
      Adam Sokoloff September 22, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

      Vic, I have to tell, you and some others really opened my eyes to some things. I knew that this was going to be a potentially controversial topic, but felt it best to run with it.

      That’s what I LOVE about community and the people who are willing to tell it to you straight!

      Since having received so many great comments, yours included, I’ve started to view this topic a little differently.

      It is a lot easier to make friends online than in real life, well at least for me. It takes me time to warm up to people in the beginning, but after getting to know them, I really open up.

      Thank you for the very kind words, and you’re welcome to come by anytime :) -Adam
      Adam Sokoloff recently posted..The Great Social Media Scam! What the Experts and Gurus Fail to Tell You!My Profile

  9. Tiffany October 2, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    Hi Adam,

    This is an interesting topic and one that could really stir a lot of opinions. Well for me fake relationships are all over cyberspace. It may surely have some negative impact but I’m seeing it more of a positive one. I don’t mind if someone calls me friend here as long as he does not claim to be my lover.haha Just kidding. Seriously, I don’t really connect with people in a personal manner here. I just connect to share and exchange ideas. That’s all. I don’t intend to know their personal lives. But yes there are always exceptions. I guess it all depends on how we handle things here in cyberspace. :)

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