One of the great fallacies of social media is that it is a boon to dialogic communication (sic) and interactivity and, hence, public relations*. In actuality, it is characterised more by the viral compounding multiplication factor, which manifests itself through replicated sharing with minimal or no value adding.
This, essentially, defines social media as primarily a broadcast medium, rather than an interactive one. So instead of communicating WITH each other through social media, we are using it to communicate AT each other.
*Public relations cannot work unless there is dialogue embedded within it. Dialogue is fundamental to at least two key characteristics of PR. It provides the best possible means of:
- understanding stakeholders’ positions on issues
- manifesting empathy towards stakeholders (though of course behavioural change by the organisation illustrates the best sort of empathy-in-action!).
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So while social media should be a boon to enabling dialogue (and hence public relations) to be effectively implemented, it very often simply isn’t up to the task. Two reasons for social media evolving in this way could be:
- the harnessing of social media by commercial interests as a means of marketing products and services (i.e. to sell stuff)
- society’s predilection for using it as a means to brain dump inane chatter, thus clogging up the communication channel with so much junk people have, often, become inured to it as a credible means of gaining information and communicating WITH people.
Social media for cretinous commentary
It can be argued that simply by RTing ,sharing et al, online posted content is being injected with the sharer’s credibility and imprimatur, but that is still not the same as contributing to the dialogue. And it’s a very long bow indeed to pontificate that it’s remotely value-adding, either.
While we all are known to some degree for our position on certain issues, with this stance ostensibly casting a shadow or veil over the content which is being shared, without the value of explication this will rarely offer sufficient clarity on the sharer’s stance, especially to those who are more than one step of ‘separation’ from the person who originally e-articulated the content.
Social media is the lazy person’s means of making something known, too. A simple RTing means, ‘I don’t have to think much or add value as I’m letting the initial content do the intellectual heavy lifting’; I’ll just (hopefully) look smart through association. God knows I’ve been guilty of this myself often enough. And generally this just adds to the information noise out in the e-ther.
I raise my e-glass to the power of less!
Raillery as the missing e-ingredient
I say: forget the cursory upload or sharing of content which does not have value-adding integrated.
To echo the stupendously wonderful Robert Dessaix, we want raillery (light hearted criticism) to enliven the e-cosmos. Criticism can be negative, positive or neither – simply analytical and observational.
But raillery is analysis which makes you smile through its gentle teasing and play. I’d like to think it’s one of Australians’ better national characteristics.
Social media as Narcissus’s ‘mirror’
Another failure of social media is encapsulated in a further non-social media-specific observation of Dessaix’s, that of individuals within western civilisation’s tendency say what they think as a sort of “angry narcissism”, with people “locked within an endless loop of self- reflection”. E-narcissism anyone?
This is a good description of how social media is used as a mechanism through which tsunamis of fatuous, self absorbed information are paraded like trophies, when even to describe this information as the emperor’s new clothes is to overestimate its utility and resonance.
Dessaix classes this as “conversation avoidance”. Hardly the dialogic platform social media is meant to exemplify.
Dessaix has further implied, if not the death, then the traducing of the term ‘friendship’ by social media. Facebook, I cast the stone at thee. Facebook, the evil home of ‘friending’. where vague acquaintances are elevated to friends. The commoditisation of friendship. Can social media go any lower?
Further, most social media-driven ‘additional’ commenting (hardly value-adding!) on the initial content is facile and/or solipsistic. Marginal, at best, from an interactivity and dialogue perspective.
Clearly, there will be resistance to some aspects of this social media rant! What are your thoughts? Have I underestimated the current value of social media to corporate communication/public relations? is social media more interactive than broadcast, as I define it to be in this post? Can you give examples to illustrate your point (which, clearly, I haven’t!)
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