Social media rearchitects itself very quickly… our ability to change behaviours is not nearly as fast. This timing dichotomy results in seemingly appropriate behaviours that come off as thoughtless or self-serving. New tools and capabilities in social media have created new norms, some good, and others that unfortunately encourage repugnant behaviour.
Like being thrust into a blinding swarm after our team wins a national championship, we lose our better judgement as to what’s right and wrong. Just because we see others doing it en masse we benignly think it’s okay to engage in abhorrent activity. What proceeds is a challenge to these mob-OKed assumptions.
There was a time we used to just guess as to who was the most popular person in the room. Today, we look at your very public follower, friend, or subscriber count and we know. If one person’s number is higher than another’s, then that person is more popular, right?
We like to fool ourselves into believing this is not true, but we can’t stop ourselves from staring at those numbers, comparing ourselves to others, and adding more online friends.
While most of us connect with people we’ve met in the real world or online, there are others who truly collect friends, extending invites to complete strangers on Facebook and LinkedIn with absolutely no explanation as to why they want to connect. Both social networks allow you to send private messages to explain why you want to connect. Yet these “friend collectors” avoid taking advantage of that function. What’s worse is the number of these strangers that refuse to reply to private messages after you’ve accepted their friend request.
Refusing private communications proves that the “friending” is purely a selfish action with the intended purpose of increasing public friend counts with no intention of creating a true social connection.
Asking people to like your content-free Facebook page
Similar to friend collecting is the process of setting up a Facebook fan page and then immediately spamming all your friends to like your page which happens to be void of content. Luckily, this has decreased substantially as it used to be a seemingly automatic request to all of one’s friends upon the creation of every single fan page.
Liking a piece of content or fan page is a transactional agreement. It’s an endorsement that comes after I have approved of what you have shown me. Requesting someone to like your fan page without showing them content is the equivalent of asking for something for nothing.
It’s similar to friend collecting because when you build a fan page your desire to create followers is tantamount. Your fan page has nothing, but you’ve got tons of friends. You’re so desperate and so dependent on your existing friend base that you think they’ll say “yes” to liking your page just because you’ve already established Facebook friendship. If you were the only one doing it, then maybe that would be true. Problem is we’re constantly inundated with these self-serving “please help me get my fan page count up” requests.
Yes, it’s a small request. But without content, it’s a lopsided transaction. And because it keeps happening, it becomes blatantly self-serving and obnoxious.
Requiring app installation to consume a message
Ever get a message like this:
“John Doe just sent you a birthday greeting. Install the Happy Birthday App to view the content.”
This is similar to like requests on contentless Facebook pages in that it’s a lopsided transaction. The selfishness in this case lies primarily in the hands of the app developer who sees this as a “viral” technique to increase their install base. In social media speak, the message would read as such:
“Pay me first by giving me access to your personal computer and social network and I’ll show you this message you will probably not like. You can still uninstall the app afterwards if you’d like, but given that most of you don’t know how to do that, chances are you won’t. We’re counting on your ignorance and apathy so we’ll be able to show our investors the number of people who have installed our app. We need another round of funding.”
Auto-DMs on Twitter
Nothing screams “Pay attention to me!” more than automated direct messages (DMs) after you’ve followed someone on Twitter. I think the reason they annoy me so much is how they’re written to appear so personal (e.g., “Thank you so much for following me…”) when they’re obviously not any type of personal communications. I wish Twitter would simply turn this feature off.
The reason it’s so obnoxious is because it’s usually not complimented with an auto-follow. Lack of a return follow means the DM recipient can’t send a direct message back. That’s anything, but a personal engagement.
“Happy Birthdays” on Facebook
Isn’t it great that Facebook reminds us when our friend has a birthday? This alert is a great reminder to send a note about how much you appreciate your friendship. Or you could send a gift. Or maybe record a “Happy Birthday” video greeting. Facebook has provided some amazing personal information about your audience, yet we go out of our way and blow a well-timed opportunity to make a meaningful connection with our friends by just typing “Happy Birthday” and nothing else.
Only typing “Happy Birthday” is truly the least you could do outside of doing nothing at all. What a colossal waste of bandwidth.
Before Facebook, when people said, “Happy Birthday,” your response would be “Thank you. You remembered.” But we can’t say that anymore because we didn’t remember, Facebook did. With this information we chose not to build a meaningful connection, but rather become participants of a massive ongoing spam campaign.
Sharing without consumption
Thanks to the proliferation of like and retweet buttons, we all have the ability to share any piece of content without looking past the headline. While no one readily admits this, we all share content via our social networks without taking the time to actually consume it. It’s often a kind thing to do for a friend who wants to spread the word about an event or a piece of content. It’s not okay to just retweet and share content to build your industry voice.
Blind sharing does provide benefits to the sharer as tweeting out content that other people retweet will raise their Klout and Kred scores. Employers are now using these social rating systems as hiring barometers especially for organizations such as PR firms.
I have an endless number of photos of my son. My wife and I look at them constantly, and our respective parents can’t get enough of them either.
While I can happily look at a million photos of my child, I can only stomach looking at about three photos of your kid. Understanding that other parents probably feel the same way, I keep a limit to the number of photos I share of my son with my entire social network.
Not all parents are aware of this photo absorption discrepancy between themselves and the rest of the world. Your kid may be cute to you, but you’re the parent and that’s how you’re supposed to feel. The rest of us are not supposed to feel that way.
Same holds true for weddings and honeymoons. The pictures you provide should acknowledge the event, and that’s it. Anything beyond that becomes a tiresome effort that overwhelms your audience.
Posting bad photos
For those unaware of what a bad photo looks like, here are some hints:
It’s out of focus.
There’s no subject in the photo.
It’s poorly composed.
While your camera may have this amazing function that allows you to automatically upload every photo you took to Facebook, it also has another great function called “delete.” Not using the always available trash button projects the image of an insensitive clod who wrongly believes everyone will love all his photos he took because the event he was at was just so damn cool. Knock it off and edit your photos.
I don’t know why this still goes on. Has anyone ever actually been compelled to follow someone after someone else’s #FF? I would guess not because almost all of them are devoid of context. Those who #FollowFriday still have fooled themselves into believing they’re being selfless, but that’s not the case. You’re alerting those #FFed in hopes they’ll pay more attention to you.
Automatically cross-posting contentless information across social networks
This is the process by which our actions, as measured by various social networks and often without moment-by-moment acknowledgement, are passively shared with multiple social networks. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg happily supports this kind of automated and frictionless sharing as the rise of the social web.
Foursquare check-ins, achievements in social games, and songs we’re currently listening to on social radio stations such as Spotify and MOG can be cross-posted on Facebook and Twitter. While Facebook has smartly turned down the volume on these passive auto-posts, this has not been the case on Twitter which has no power to turn down the volume on anything.
To auto-share your every action across multiple social networks where people haven’t opted in is obscenely egotistical and doesn’t take into account the additional noise being created in the social sphere. Stop it. If someone cared where you checked in they would be following you on Foursquare. No need to let everyone on Facebook and Twitter know as well.
David Spark is a new media consultant and producer with more than fifteen years knowledge and experience as a journalist reporting on the tech industry in print, radio, TV, and online. His articles and advice have appeared in more than 30 publications including eWEEK, Wired News, PC Computing, PC... More
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