clear and present danger exists to the advances brought on in recent years
through the development of social media. The coarsening conversation
apparent throughout the online media environment threatens to stall or even
reverse important recent advances.
ability of those outside of traditional media to speak directly to the public
while enabling a constructive dialogue and audience conversation revolutionizes
communications. Companies and individuals now have the ability to become
publishers and broadcasters with very little skill or investment. In turn,
readers, viewers, and listeners can interact with the content creators and even
these advances provide an opportunity for more valuable content to be available
online. Previously overlooked niches now receive abundant coverage from amateur
media. Small and medium-sized businesses have a new outlet for reaching
potential customers. Massive corporations can humanize themselves through
effective social media outreach. Even old-fashioned media outlets now face
viable competition in some categories from these amateur upstarts.
evidence suggests that social media has been achieving increased acceptance in
corporate executive suites and with media editors and producers. This trend
will abate, however, if the coarsening conversation continues to dominate large
swaths of the online communications arena.
on blogs and other media sites have always been opinionated. However, the level
of personal invective seems to be on the rise. Recent articles online about the
tragic death of former White House spokesman Tony Snow and the illnesses of
Sen. Ted Kennedy and Robert Novak have brought out a bevy of online commenters
who have reveled in the news. One anonymous blogger at DailyKos even
manipulated and fabricated facts to allege that GOP VP nominee Sarah Palin’s
newborn son was not her own, leading to countless blog posts and comments that
can only be described as despicable.
universe does not stand alone in its coarseness, however. Check out sports
blogs, for instance, and you will find rampant obscenities and a rash of
juvenile blog posts and comments.
world of technology itself produces more than its fair share of coarse
conversation. The recent salvos between advocates of the DEMO and TechCrunch
conferences did little to advance constructive dialogue, opting instead for the
apparently preferred approach of finger-pointing and vitriolic rhetoric.
this point, I would advise most major media outlets and larger companies that
do anything even remotely controversial to forego comments entirely — either
initially or at the first sign of trouble. At a minimum, it would be wise to
restrict anonymous comments. Regardless of what my fellow social media
evangelists may say, trash-talking, personal invective, obscenities, and rude
behavior in comments do indeed reflect upon the brand or publication. Comments
may still fill a role for smaller, niche publications, but they appear doomed
to failure on a larger scale.
years now, the stereotype of bloggers has been crazy young people living in
their mom’s dark basement posting in their pajamas. That’s unfortunate as there
are countless quality bloggers and social media creators producing useful
material. But the increasingly rancorous nature of social media threatens to
reinforce the stereotype and scare away newcomers — both in terms of
participants and audience.
who decry traditional media as stiff and rigid and who praise social media as
more flexible and responsive may be correct. Yet so long as social media
participants continue to behave more like spoiled kids than polished
communicators, traditional media will retain an edge with the broader public.
The line between “authenticity” and coarseness can be quite fine
is vital to remember that there’s a clear difference between
“amateur” and “amateurish.” Finding high-quality content from
new media sources while discarding the noise and vitriol has become
increasingly difficult. Andrew Keen suggests this “Cult of the
Amateur” threatens our society and economy. That’s not likely, as it will
likely sink social media before it can accomplish that great feat.
This essay was originally published by Media Bullseye.