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Does Social media flatten the world?
February 2010

 

The power social media gives to each and everyone of us does give us all equal power. Thus you would expect that we would all become equal.

I read a publication of Scott Gould (@scottgould) two days ago, in which he asked his readers if Social media does flatten the world in the sense that everyone becomes equal: all opinions are of the same importance and everyone respects each and every other person online.
See: http://scottgould.me/do-you-believe-in-a-flat-social-media-earth/

In the discussion we talked about the fact that social media does empower each and every one of us to reach the whole world with our opinion. In a perfect world that would mean that we all become equal. Thus, social media makes the world flat technically, but in the end the human character with all its flaws will ensure the same inequality in social media as we see off-line.

Going one step further, it is to my idea impossible to create a flatter world with social media (where all are equal) because it is inherent to social media to be unequal. For example, people tend to have loads of friends in Facebook. Having hundreds or even thousands of friends is not uncommon. I just read an article that it is not possible for the human mind to handle more than 150 friends and I think that we all have experienced we do not have contact with all our “friends” or online relations on a regular basis.
So why do people have so many friends? Because everybody wants to feel popular. They want to have many people reading their everyday business and tell them they are awesome. Meaning people want to feel better than anybody else and for the first time in their life social media gives people the change to rise above the rest and become “special”.

It certainly is not the case with all people on social media, but in the end we will all fall for it. For example take Twitter, where you have “followers”. The word itself already implies that you are a celebrity, a famous ruler, who is followed by his loyal subjects. By comparing with fellow “rulers” you can see how powerful you are, because you have so many more subjects. In a site like LinkedIn this is done a bit better, by “connecting” to people instead of “following” each other, although in LinkedIn you are also able to compare the number of connections you have with others, but with over 500 connections this is not shown anymore, so then everyone becomes equal again.

Ideal world
The world would become much flatter (equal), if sites like Twitter would not show how many followers you have. Instead you should measure how many people you follow. The problem is however that social media sites thrive on people trying to have as many followers as possible and by taking this aspect away, a lot of people might stop using it.

The question is: Would social media function better if we would create a flatter (equal) world with it by not showing your popularity, or is this human flaw essential for its survival?




 
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  BOOK REVIEWS
Some of my personal remarks and opinion on books related to social media marketing:

"Socialnomics" How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business, by Erik Qualman

 

"New rules of PR & Marketing" How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly, by David Meerman Scott

 
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