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
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
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?
Up for more market domination? Have we connected yet on Google+ ?