Friday, December 4, 2009

Social Media Infatuation

I've always been fascinated by comments in the social media; in particular, those comments which thank the author for sharing their insight with the community at large. The language used within many of these 'thank you' comments often takes me aback, with the author frequently praising the writer of the blog for their intelligence and insight. Whilst there is nothing inherently wrong with thanking someone for sharing their expert thoughts and opinions in the public domain, it is the manner in which this is so often carried out that I find interesting.

I believe that it was in Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody where the idea of technological infactuation was first introduced to me. Shirky chronicles the rise of ICQ; the instant messaging tool which later became AOL Instant Messenger. The developers of the tool, which achieved massive levels of interest from an early stage despite minimal investment in marketing, quickly saw a number of its users become obsessed. A number of these individuals even went so far as to openly declare their love of the platform in letters sent to the founders. Technological infactuation is an interesting premise; one that I feel is, in a roundabout way, applicable to the social media.

When I read a comment on a blogpost which thanks the author for their insight in a manner similar to that described above, I am often left with the feeling that the comment's publisher is suffering from Social Media Infatuation. What is Social Media Infatuation (SMI)? SMI in my eyes represents a user's apparent fixation with the content offered to the online community by participants in the social media; a particularly common occurrence amongst the writings of the more prominent social commentators. This is often evident through the manner in which the recipient engages with the information received. Frequently, the comments offered up by SMI sufferers fail to advance the conversation in any meaningful way. Whether these comments unnecessarily bloat the social content is arguably a matter of opinion, however I would suggest that SMI does have the capacity to devalue the contributions of sufferers. In particular, users which claim that a single post has changed their lives are surely overexagerating. Oftentimes though, the content produced in entirely genuine.

Praise is great, but remember that the social media is about the sharing of thoughts and the subsequent development of knowledge. If you want to really show the blog's author your appreciation, then why not enhance the conversation by delivering your own insights. This seems a far more appropriate means of thanking a social media enthusiast in my opinion. Maybe I'm being slightly cynical, but hey, should be a good way to incite debate following an extended absence from TLR blog!

What are your thoughts on Social Media Infatuation? Is it warranted? Love to get your thoughts on this.


P.S. It's good to be back!

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