Saturday, October 15, 2011

The unreality of the social media world

I seem to have accidentally hit on a theme in this blog.

Take my September 27 post, entitled "How 'real names' creates the unreal me." This post discusses how we have to watch out about the things that get attached to our "real name" persona.

A few days later, I wrote about the empty symbolism of the one dollar annual salary. It LOOKS good to claim that your compensation will be based upon the performance of the company, but at the end of the day it seems that the "one dollar" people get rewarded even when their companies perform poorly.

On October 5, I wrote a fairly popular post about Nobel Prize winner Dan Shechtman. Shechtman made a new scientific discovery - and was criticized for it because it conflicted with others' view of reality.

And just this morning I wrote a post about a video in which a woman was talking to Steve Wozniak. People assumed that the woman was a TechCrunch interviewer, and she was vehemently criticized for not acting like an interviewer.

Now some of these items really don't have anything to do with social media, but I'll use them anyway to make my point. Here's how I closed out my post from this morning:

I find it highly ironic - and disturbing - that when we all insist on being real and social, this woman is being condemned for acting like a normal person.

The truth is that reality is boring. What if a video camera were pointed at me while I was writing this post? You would see a person, half-lounging on a couch, netbook propped on a TV table, typing.

But even before social media revolutionized life as we know it, people realized that reality was boring. Think about it. You take a bunch of good-looking people, put them in a remote wilderness area in a foreign country, stage some fake competitions, point cameras at them - and then call it "reality TV."

We create systems that purport to let advertisers know what real people are doing - but we do it in a way that guarantees that the advertisers will only find out the information that we want them to find out. Do you think I'm going to go to my Google+ profile and post every time that I eat fast food? Or watch Fox News?

Stockholders invest in companies, and certainly want those companies to succeed. Yet stockholders abrogate their responsibilities regarding their investments, and allow people to be paid tens of millions of dollars for doing nothing. (And we do the same when a new startup emerges that has no hope of making money, other than selling themselves to the highest bidder.)

We champion the scientific method and ridicule those who advance "unscientific" theories. But when someone actually uses the scientific method, then they'd better get the results that the community expects them to get, or they'll be condemned. (Just try to remove the halo from Steve Jobs; you'll be crucified. Which is why I'm holding off on writing my post, "Let Steve Jobs teach you how to hate." Yes, I'm unreal also.)

And finally, we all blab about how social media is supposed to enable us to have real conversations. And one day, a woman has a conversation with the co-founder of one of the leading technology companies. The woman understands real conversations. Woz understands real conversations. But most everyone who witnessed the conversation (via video) hate it.

QUESTION: If we don't want reality, then why do we claim that we do?
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