A lot can happen in two weeks.
I didn’t post last week. It happens. “Don’t cry for me ArgentGenius” (ok, not so funny Evita reference, but it was stuck in my head and I had to use it). I’m back with twice the thought of one of my normal posts. Are you ready?
In the last two weeks, two events occurred back to back that made me question social media, especially Twitter, a lot. Not to question it in the sense of “I’m going to give it up,” but more in the sense of “where are we heading with it.” What is social media’s purpose and how can we define that purpose without trying to gum up the works with a set of “rules” that are counterintuitive to the theories behind social media itself? We’ve had the ROI discussion ad naseum and I don’t wish to rehash that…I’m looking for a personal answer to my own belief systems.
Week One: Repetitive Uselessness
The first week seemed simple enough, SXSWi was the event and a technological geek wonderland had descended on Austin. I follow a lot of über-nerds and real estate tech folks. I enjoy hearing technology discussions, even when they’re over my head. I thrill in hearing about a new product or service that might somehow apply to me. If I can’t apply it to real estate, I still retain some interest. I love technology, it’s an interest of mine.
I watched the Twitter stream with avid interest in learning, experiencing (even though I wasn’t there), and gleaning a few nuggets here and there. Considering the fact that many of the social media mavens of our time would be in one place, I expected to see great things. I felt like I had been let down.
Considering all the social media brainpower gathered in one place, I thought we’d see a Twitter stream full of bright, inventive, new thinking. Instead, I found myself reading about a lot of lunches, a ton of photo-ops, and a party-hopping list detailed enough to make even a rockstar jealous. I received less value and more fluff than ever before while following a conference. I had to ask myself – where is the substance?
Following conferences via social media has become a great way to experience things without having to be there. Sure, you’ll never get the full effect, but if you’re not able to make it, it’s the next best thing. If the conference is so intertwined with social media, I would expect much more actionable knowledge to come from it, but I just didn’t see enough of it coming out of SXSWi. Several attendees seemed to take offense to such armchair quarterback commentary, but I ask them – where was the open sharing of knowledge that social media seeks to achieve?
Week Two: Fire and Brimstone
Ahh, the second week. How to discuss this without dragging AgentGenius down into the hell that is the health care debate? I don’t wish to talk about right or wrong, costs or savings, Republican or Democrat. I don’t want to get on a soapbox and tell you how you should feel, much less have you get on the pulpit and preach your opinion about it. There are plenty of places to discuss the bill and the hows and whys. Please check your opinions at the door. Our demon coat check will make sure your opinions are returned to you upon leaving this post.
So yes, I’m about to talk about something so heavily wrapped in politics that I’m going to try and avoid politics. This should be fun.
My worry is this. Social media is descending into an AOL chat room like firestorm of hatred and accusatory speech. The worst in human behavior is being let loose. Opinions are a great thing. Opinions filled with venomous rancor are not. I saw words like dumb masses, stupid people, uneducated slobs, and even God hating slung around as if we were fighting each other and not talking about the health care bill. In a sense, I can understand the anger and fervor with which people took their stances, but to call the other side stupid? Have we not let go of the days on the merry-go-round yet?
The childish name calling and flame-war-inducing baiting that is going on sickens me. We are better than this, are we not? When it comes to real estate agents, I would hope for even more (I believe in our industry…blah, blah, blah), yet time and time again, I saw agents from around the country turn into vehement mouthpieces for their respective side. Again I stress; opinions – yes, venomous rancor – no. There is a marked difference in the two.
You should have beliefs and you should truly have a passion for them. You’ll get no argument from me there, but to broad brushstroke the opposing beliefs with commentary of a baseless nature and fling personal attacks and insults of one’s intelligence or religious belief? Seriously?
“But, I never said…”
Of course most will read this and comment how they did tweet useful things from SXSWi or would never say those things during the health care debate. For many of you, I know this to be true. This isn’t a one-on-one attack against the readers and writers at AgentGenius, but it is an assault on those that (wittingly or not) destroy the social media ideas of openness, discussion, and free thinking. Social media can bring out the worst in people, much like Myspace, AOK chat rooms, and IRC have in the past. Is this where we want it to go? Or do we believe that there is more to life than brand-sponsored parties and political-bashing? Social media is what you make it…what you put out there today, becomes your path for tomorrow – what will it be for you?
photo of Auguste Rodin’s La Porte de l’Enfer (Gates of Hell) courtesy of Screwtape