Maybe Social Media is Not the Devil After All

I hate to get stuck on a position. Whenever I do, I’m no longer open to learning. I turned my back on social media after experiencing the cruelty at Digg and mistakenly allowed that to color my perspective for all forms of social media.

Shortly after that Digg experience, I happened to have the chance to talk about social media with some friends in the search marketing industry. 10e20’s, Chris Winfield, was the most positive voice and did his best to present a site such as Digg as a mix of good and bad. He, and other marketers like his company, use social media as a tool. For them, I sense, there is a true science to navigating which social media site fits the needs of a promotional campaign for a client.

Knowing the territory is where they far exceed my personal experience. It’s unfair of me to lump social media into a pile of junk somewhere without really understanding the nature of the beast.

My friend, Miriam, of Solas Web Design has been researching the social media environment in an effort to understand how it can be applied to her work and services. Is it a valuable tool? Are there risks? She interviewed several people, myself included, for a thoughtful piece called The isms of SM.

What Miriam found was racism, sexism, religious intolerance, prejudice and bigotry in Digg and Reddit. She wondered why anyone would expose a client to this. She wrote:

I am extremely disturbed by the rampant hate speech going on in the comments field of Digg and Reddit. Though some of the comments are benign, there is an ugly feeling in the atmosphere. Tragedies are met with laughter and sneering. Serious articles about religion receive incredibly hateful replies. Racist comments are everywhere. How do you feel about this element of Social Media? Does it shock you?

After I had sent my responses to her questions a few weeks back, I felt unsettled that my own negative experiences influenced my perspective. Could I be persuaded to reconsider?

Definitely. An article called Analysis: 6 Useful Social Media Tools and Sites For Women showed up on my radar and I bookmarked it to explore the sites mentioned. It’s not that I’m only into women sites, because I’m not. What attracts me is the fact that there are more choices. This means there may be environments where I could fit in.

Bill Slawski pointed out in Miriam’s article several “positive” social media sites, including forums and business networking sites. I found a 68 page report called Never Ending Friending: A Journey into Social Networking (PDF) The research covers:

The Insider’s View of the Evolving World of Social Networking

The Momentum Effect:Creating Brand Value in the Social Networking Space

Implications for Brands and Agencies

There’s the anti-social side of social media (image) and the mature, tolerant side. There’s the “It’s cool to humiliate people” type of social media web site and, unfortunately hate sells in some target markets.

That’s the part I get stuck on.

When did we permit inflicting harm on someone as a marketing tool and ticket to riches and fame?

Instead of the Internet unifying people, social media divides and separate us into categories. While that’s natural, because people like to do that, I’m hopeful I’ll find fair sites that value me.

What makes a social media site worthwhile to you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

3 thoughts on “Maybe Social Media is Not the Devil After All

  1. I love StumbleUpon – the community is much nicer and there’s a super duper toolbar that makes submitting and voting on posts very easy.

    You can learn much more about people because you can see what interests you have in common with another “Stumbler.”

    You can send messages and block users if you suspect them of spam. Although I will say that I responded to somebody who I was suspicious of spamming and we actually had an interesting conversation.

  2. Hi Kim,
    Hey it made my evening to read this. I’ve been sick all week and you’ve cheered me up with all of your thoughts on this :)

    I am definitely going to take a good look around some of the sites Bill suggested in the post. The Care2 one seems especially interesting as it appears to have an environmental, planet lovin’ kind of atmosphere that I can dig.

    I do want people to keep talking about the downsides to the SM sites with hate speech on them, because this may cause someone much smarter than I am to find a solution to this in creating communities that foster the kind of respect and intelligent conversation that goes on at Cre8asite Forums.

    Every time I visited Digg, I came running back home to you folks for a dose of humane speech. I’m serious!

    Thank you for blogging about this, and I guess we all owe it to ourselves to keep thinking about it.

    Miriam

  3. They’re useful when they 1- CLEARLY help me do something and 2- are emphasized on the social side and not the media side. I want both social and media in my social media sites, however, if I want to experience back-biting or dry news reporting, there’s always certain areas of the mainstream media, not to mention the negatively-skewed part of the blogosphere (which I consider mainstream media, but deserves its own distinction).

    In a social media site, I want to… well… socialize. I want to read new sites and new blogs and not always the same ones. I want to see new people in the mix of the discussion. Sites that aren’t inclusive are missing the point, even if they’re being exclusive to cater to their main audience.

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