So following yesterday’s post about the 2oceansvibe thing (which I don’t care to rehash) out here, I noticed something interesting: a drop-off in Twitter followers. At first blush, this phenomenon is barely worth mentioning but it bears looking into since this is essentially the digital equivalent of “I don’t want to play with you anymore”. The same can be said about Facebook and the unfriending vibe.
Why this is interesting, is simply that the line between personal and professional is so easily blurred out in the social media environment. More often than not, a professional or academic opinion is taken as a personal attack. The existence and acceptance of Godwin’s Law (despite its being pedagogical or rhetorical) is proof that such histrionics in reaction to opposing ideals in the digital sphere is commonplace. In fact, if ever there was a space that required more objectivity, it would be social media. The levels of passive-aggression are simply beyond measure. What is more, rational discourse around any topic is nigh-on impossible. Ad hominem arguments abound and what should be a debate (or at least a conversation) becomes a bunfight, fraught with the tactics employed by pre-schoolers in a playground screaming match.
So why does it matter if people unfriend/unfollow/unsubscribe to you? It doesn’t. Well, at least it doesn’t matter to you. What it means though in the greater scheme of things is that as people choose to surround themselves with likeminded individuals (and by likeminded I mean thought-clones), they shut themselves off to opposing or differing points of view. Essentially, this places them in an echo-chamber where all they hear is their own opinion being amplified exponentially. This same echo-chamber eventually intensifies until dissenting voices are shouted down and vilified for disagreeing before being expelled from the group. No, it’s not melodramatic. It’s mob mentality. And as we all know, the stupidity levels of people in great numbers can and should never be underestimated.
Back to the point of departure though. Sure, I’m now a few followers down on Twitter. Now, these are people who’ve decided that my reaction to a situation didn’t sit well with them and despite the (I hope) mutually entertaining time we’ve had on the platform, that’s enough to sever ties. And that begs that we question the strength of these ties in the first place. Issues of engagement, loyalty, authority and efficacy come into play. I’m not questioning the relationships between myself and the followers. I’m questioning just how strong the ties can be if they’re built on this platform.
I tend to believe that no engagement out in the digital world can replace real-time interaction. Sure, it can augment an existing relationship and it can initiate the genesis of relationship but it can’t sustain one. Not alone, anyway and out there, the dynamic of a relationship is even more fragile than you would expect. In marketing terms, it’s the symbiosis between these two environments that can create, build and sustain a relationship.
Ultimately though, the current outlook of the social media world is one based on tribes of people who really don’t want to engage with others who don’t subscribe to their way of thinking. In fact, the more correct way to describe people out here would be as sheep or fish or any other creature with a herd mentality. And that is sad because now we’ve done the complete opposite of what social media was intended for. Instead of bringing us together, it’s amplified our differences and our dislike for things that are different.
The question is: can we reverse this or is social media just an amplification of our own base natures?