Lest You Forget, It Is All About Me

I’ve been so heads down working on the DEMOfall conference (It’s going to be great, by the way) that I failed to realize what I chump I am.

All along, I’ve been using Twitter to keep an ear to the rail. I nurture my “following” list and am ceaselessly fascinated by the things people are doing, what they’ve discovered, and what they find necessary to share with a more or less anonymous world. Yes, I also use Twitter to keep a presence in the world; that way you all think I’m out and about when in truth I’m home watching So You Think You Can Dance (Will is going to win it, I’m sure of it. Update: In a measure of  my predictive abilities, Will was voted off the show just hours after I posted this column.).

Then yesterday, Twitter pukes and the relationship database goes haywire. Followers are mowed down by the hundreds. The hue and cry is deafening. “Where, oh where,” the Twitterati wail, “are all my followers?”

Twitter tells us they are “working to restore missing followers/followings.” They should focus on followers. That’s what people are missing most. The list that proves they are somebody. The place to which we can point and say, “Look, look! Look at all those people looking at me!”

But I’m a chump. I looked at my shrunken “following” list and was bummed. I’d collected all sorts of wonderful people who entertained and enlightened me with their 140-character observations. Now they’re gone, or at least scattered, and I must collect them all over again. Amid the gnashing of teeth, the mourning for lost followers, it seems only @MaryHodder and I care that we lost our links to those we follow.

Oddly enough, and as things seem to do, this Twitter burp happened as I was in mid-debate about the “egosphere” – that universe of bloggers who, but for blogging tools, might languish in relative obscurity.

Blog tools and audience-cultivating services like Twitter, FriendFeed and the like have enabled hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people to find their stage, to become real stars by proving their wit, wisdom, and experience with insightful commentary and a well-turned phrase.

For each of these new stars, though, there must be a dozen more who, using Technorati ranking and Twitter followers as a measure of their worth, have become social media egomaniacs. They believe their stats. They are read. They are followed. Ergo, they are important, worthy, superior, a VIP.

They link, comment, tweet, and post. They must feed the monster. But do they listen, contemplate, analyze? There is no need. They are stars. The numbers say so.

Meanwhile, millions toil beyond the blogosphere. Silly people suffering under the illusion that thoughtfulness, courtesy, and experience matter. They are the chumps who put in long hours to pay the mortgage, who race outside in their pajamas to make sure the trashcan gets to the curb before the garbage guy does, who believe one must earn a place in the world.

In an opinion piece in today’s San Jose Mercury News, Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Victor Davis Hanson blames the “legacy of the 60s” for spawning the “Me Generation” that is everything wrong with politics today.

If he’s correct (and I’d argue that the problem is bigger than politics and a product of early 80s “Reagan Babies”), then the blogosphere, Twitter, and dozens of other social tools have given the Me Generation a mega platform from which it issues that most primal adolescent cry: “Hey, Mom! Look at me!”

Cyndy Aleo-Carreira called it “hubris. Cyndy is polite.

I call it unchecked self-importance, reinforced by those who mistake having an audience for having something to say. Yesterday, the audience – at least for a time – went away. And those with little to say and no one to say it to spoke loudest of all.

6 Comments »

  1. I have a friend – an 18-year-old young man emancipated from foster care. He struggles to make sense of the world of hurt he lives in, to eat, to find work, and to sleep indoors. When I asked how he survives street living, he surprised me by answering “I listen.”

    “I’m followed, therefore I am” is a slippery decline. While these “stay connected” technologies are no doubt useful, when people get beyond their true circle of friends monologue, as you point out, trumps dialog. As businesses adopt Twitter et al to “follow” customers I suspect they too will fall into the ego trap of talking at customers instead of listening to them.

    From the sidelines I’m watching Logitech remake itself and I appreciate that they have honed down what’s important for survival as new competitors threaten to one question: Would you buy from us again?

    If more companies and bloggers adopted listening as their primary mode of communications, customers would realize they have a hope of influencing the direction products from news to computer mice will take and that will create a better era of products and a “blogosphere” we could be prouder to be members of.

  2. Check out another take on this in a WSJ article about Comcast’s social media efforts (http://tinyurl.com/6n8hf5), in which people whose tweets Comcast answers find it “creepy” and big-brotherish that someone is actually responding to them. Can you imagine the–what is it, arrogance?–of people who not only define themselves by the size of their audience but then get miffed when the audience interacts with them?

    Your tweets on the “unfollowing” were refreshing, Chris!

  3. […] Twitter is loosing users’ friends and Chris Shipley of The Guidwire offers her amusing perspective on the ordeal. “Then yesterday,” says Chris, “Twitter pukes and the relationship database goes haywire. Followers are mowed down by the hundreds. The hue and cry is deafening. ‘Where, oh where,’ the Twitterati wail, ‘are all my followers?’” Read up to find out what’s been happening with Twitter, and what it means to you. by Mike Nelson | Blogs of Fire | […]

  4. You know, Chris, I sat on your take on this and sat on it and the NYT piece about the trolls came out this weekend and I realized it’s all about gaining that precious 15 minutes. For those who care about how many people are following them, it’s like seconds ticking off the clock when that audience vanishes.

  5. J Blake said

    Chris — I find it ironic that you talk of “unchecked self-importance, reinforced by those who mistake having an audience for having something to say” when your organisation demoevents spams me at work. If there wasn’t a better definition of a self-important person thinking they have an audience, and I can assure you that you certainly having nothing important to say.

  6. J –

    Whether it has something to say or not, DEMO makes it pretty easy for anyone to easily unsubscribe to the demoevents emails. Sorry that they bother you.

    Chris

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