Has the Social Media Backlash Begun?
The emergence of a new site encouraging people to commit Web 2.0 suicide has highlighted an apparent backlash against the prevalence of social media platforms. New Media Knowledge’s Chris Lee canvassed the opinions of industry thought leaders to gauge if there really is a backlash and how social media consultants should respond.
The population of Facebook may well exceed that of the United States and growing all the time, but a new tool has emerged which hints at a groundswell of disaffection against social networks. The “Suicide Machine” allows users to enter their password and usernames for the respective social media networks they’re listed on and will delete their profiles, photos, messages and friends, as well as altering their username passwords so they cannot log back in. You can see the Suicide Machine in action here.
Facebook appears to have blocked the site, but the consternation it caused demonstrates growing frustration – even in the technology community – with social networks. Digital specialist Jaron Lanier’s new book You Are Not a Gadget also questions the wisdom of “the crowd”. NMK spoke to three leading lights in the UK social media scene to see whether this is just a flash in the pan or a real threat.
According to Will McInnes of Brighton-based social media agency Nixon McInnes Suicide Machine is a well-timed application that draws on the “reservoir of mistrust” that many feel towards social media.
“The world is changing and we are all struggling to keep up,” McInnes said. “It's tricky to maintain both our old world communications and the new deluge of interactions powered by the Internet. So it's no surprise to us to see this and other backlash-tinged stories and trends. There will be more irritation, frustration, anger and hurt before this revolution is over. But it's happening nonetheless, and bit by bit we will adapt as will the technologies themselves.”
Ged Carroll, director of digital strategies at PR consultancy Ruder Finn, believes that any potential social media fatigue is not something radical or new, but more a concept of information overload.
“The concept of social media fatigue can be seen as social media’s coming of age, it is now so mainstream that it even has its own fatigue group,” Carroll told NMK. “What it needs is for society-at-large to develop an etiquette for social media in the same way that we developed one for emails (don’t send inappropriate content to a work email account), taking an underground train (don’t maintain eye contact), talking on a mobile phone (don’t talk loudly in a restaurant) or watching television (don’t hog the remote control).”
Carroll believes that social media fatigue will be used as an excuse to try and explain away poor user experience and community management in the same way, he says, that “media companies have used piracy to mask poor business management.”
Retrain your Brain
Roger Warner heads up social agency Content and Motion. He believes that social media professionals need to act smarter to combat any cynicism towards social platforms.
“From a personal and professional standpoint, [social media] is priceless - new customer relationships, new intelligence on marketplaces, and new ways of creating brands and promoting,” he said. “But our ability to stay on top of social media and use it in valuable ways is largely determined by the tools we use to filter the noise and act on the important stuff. Without good monitoring and alerting systems in place, the web becomes a very, very big place that's hard to get your arms around and any attempt to do so is frankly.”
Warner also argues that social media users’ brains need a little bit of re-wiring this year.
“To deliver smarter work we need to step away from the coalface and the constant stream of information that Social Media provides,” he concluded. “We should be taking stock more, counting to ten, and perhaps even sleeping on things now and again before commenting, tweeting, forming opinions, baking plans and setting sail.”