When I first started doing this whole “online thing” a year ago, there was one particular word that showed up in almost every conversation – human. You could be a human brand. You could now conduct marketing on a human-to-human basis. Your customers were now humans instead of numbers. It was important to be human online (whatever that really means).
Lately though, something weird is going on. The pull on social media participants doesn’t seem to be towards the human side of things anymore. In fact, it feels to me like we are getting less and less human.
Now what do I mean by that? Well, think about some of the actions that were considered “being human” online only a short time ago. What has happened to those proposed online activities? Let’s take a look.
When I first started tweeting, I believed strongly that the best thing to do was to share content from others that you thought was really good and/or helpful. It was a good way to pass on useful information to your followers (at the time that was about 67 people for me, but hey!) and it also was a good way to connect with the people whose content you were sharing. You were saying, “Hey man…nice work.”
Now, sharing seems to be something we want to do with as little thought as possible. Triberr gives me a list of posts that I can just click “yes” on, and wham! Suddenly I’m sharing. I don’t have to read any of it because (one hopes) that everyone in your tribe is a great writer who agrees with your general online philosophy 100% of the time. Sharing content in a blog post is now most often viewed as link bait or comment bait because people have gotten cynical (and because a lot of people do share blog posts to get more links or comments).
The humanity has sort of seeped out of sharing content online.
Saying thank you
I’ve always been a big believer in saying thank you, most especially when someone shares a blog post of mine. It takes extra time that people don’t have to read a post and then share it, so I have always felt it important to let people know I appreciate it. Now there’s a problem though. Because of tools like Triberr, people aren’t going out of their way to share my posts. People have their account set to tweet things out at various times, and often times these days, a thank you from me garners a “for what” response. The person didn’t even realize they were sharing posts of mine.
Because of this change, I’ve stopped saying thank you as much. I can’t tell easily who is really intending to share my content and who is just letting a site do their sharing. This makes me feel less human. This takes out a big chunk of what I felt was important in my online world. That kind of bums me out.
Thinking for your own darned self
Perhaps the most disturbing thing I’m seeing in the online world is that a lot of people are no longer thinking for themselves. I’ve seen people do 180 degree turns on a person because the folks they were hanging out with didn’t like said person as much. I’ve seen people flash mob a blog post by a person they normally get along with. I’ve seen people purposefully try to bring other people down when the tide is going that way.
Perhaps even more disturbing, I’ve seen people start to just wait for the next coattail to grab. They wait for someone else to come up with the next big idea, and then they become one of the first to pounce on it.
Social Media offers us an opportunity to think about everything in new ways. Why wait to jump on someone else’s bandwagon? Start your own. Custom-paint it. Make it special because it’s yours, not because someone you think is popular said it would run well.
Sacrificing our souls
In an environment that is supposed to be all about “human-ness,” why are we giving away all that makes us human? Why are we automating all of the activities that most reveal our humanity in the online world? Will we eventually get to the point where all of our conversations are based on automated signals rushing back and forth from platform to platform? Will that really be better than where we were five years ago?
To me, that seems like a less meaningful world in which to operate.
What do you think?
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hubmedia/2141860216/ via Creative Commons