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Aug 26, 2010

Social Media - The Cult of You

Social media has been called "the cult of me." It encourages each of us to cultivate our own little cult, to gather around us a circle of "Friends" and "Followers", sometimes even "Minions." Seems like the ultimate in self-indulgence, doesn't it?

But does social media really encourage selfishness? Is worrying about what other people think of you is a form of selfishness, or is it a matter of not giving enough consideration to your own self-integrity, obsessing instead over pleasing others?

Jane Steen warned in her blog post on 5 ways to make your twitter time more productive that the surefire way to make your twitter (or facebook) posts deadly dull is to tweet all about yourself (and your kids, pets, wordcount). Actually, I think posts about oneself, even about one's cat, can be interesting -- there are more pictures of cats on the internet than porn! -- as long as the poster keeps one motto in mind:

It's not about you.

This is the irony of social networks. You write about yourself, you post about yourself, you promote yourself, but it is not about you -- it's about what you can do for other people. Are you tweeting/posting something that will make someone smile or snort or sigh? When you read other peoples' tweets and posts, are you thinking, not, how does this help me, but, how can I help them?

And sometimes the best way to help someone else is to let them know that they have helped you. Because the good people on the web, not the trolls, are on the web asking themselves the same question, how can I help the people around me? How can I add value?

A lot of people do succeed in adding value, from a post that makes one think about a problem in a new way, to a comment that makes one smile, to even bigger things. I was terribly nervous about going on Facebook and Twitter because of the Timesuck Issue, and indeed, it's worse than I thought (and yet so much better) because I've also found out about wonderful books to read, events I want to attend, and people I want to get to know better. And chances are I won't have as much time to do those things as I'd like. But the problem is one of TMGS -- Too Much Good Sh... er, Stuff.

And of all the problems to have TMGS is pretty much the best of the lot.

Oh, and by all means, if I'm not following you on Twitter or Facebook, drop me a note and I'll remedy that. :)


scott g.f.bailey said...

So I shouldn't constantly update my blog with wordcounts? Darn. That's really all I got. That's my best shot. Darn. I guess it's cute cat photos from now on.

One blog I admire despite myself is Neil Gaiman's. He's chatty and open and friendly yet he is almost always pimping himself and his books. It's really impressive the way he does it, and it never feels like you're talking to a salesman. You just get the impression of "Here's a really nice guy who writes books/screenplays for a living. Hey, he's engaged to Amanda Palmer. That's nice for him. Look, photos of his dogs!"

Jai Joshi said...

If people don't have the right attitude about social media then it can all be about themselves. However, like you, I feel that the good people have figured it out that this medium is about sharing with and inspiring others and giving others something to learn. It's about all of us.


Tara Maya said...

@ scott. I follow a lot of writers, and a lot of them post word counts for the day. Presumably, non-writers find this boring as wall paint, but personally, I like it because (a) it's informative, because I see how much other writers get done in a day or a week, (b) I'm competitive, so it spurs me on to greater word counts, (c) it reminds me to actually work on my mss instead of just facebooking/tweeting.

So, word count away. I actually intend to start posting word counts myself.

@ Jai. Agreed. It's true, there are plenty of trolls, hogs and distressed Nigerian businessmen on the net. No doubt. But there are plenty of really, good decent people as well.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

This is a great post, and something I've thought a lot about recently as I look around in fear that I'm annoying the heck out of everybody about my book, my book, my book, my book, BUY my BOOK! Yes, marketing and social networking. Most of the time I feel like a selfish little beast, but many of told me I don't come off that way, so that's good. I really am grateful to everyone for everything they've done to support me, and I think what I want to do most is help others with their work, too. It's a give and take thing, this social networking.

Now, to go post a picture of a cat. You know, I really don't like cats. :(

Tara Maya said...

Michelle, you are not obnoxious at all. You were one of the people I was thinking of who "add value" to the internet by all the remarkable and insightful things you write.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Thanks, Tara. :) I'm trying not to overdo it with the marketing, if that makes sense. I really like staying small, in a way.