What if our newspapers were filled with articles on how to write for newspapers?
What if the only books we printed were books about how to sell books?
What if TV shows consisted solely of monologues about TV?
I doubt we’d have much use for them at all.
So why do we accept it in social media?
The Three Pillars of Social Media Content
If you blog, podcast or otherwise create media for web-based distribution, you probably talk ad nauseam about one of three topics:
- How to create web content
- How to monetize web content
Notice that you probably don’t talk about the subject matter of your content, because your content is its own subject matter.
Crazy, isn’t it?
We blog about blogging. We market about marketing. And, when we’re not selling our expertise, we sell ourselves. It’s the equivalent of painters forever painting portraits of themselves painting their own self-portraits. I can’t imagine another medium that would exist solely to justify and perpetuate its own existence, and yet that’s precisely what we do here.
It’s ugly. It’s desperate. It’s solipsistic. (Look it up.) And it makes for one anemic defense of an industry.
It’s almost like social media labors under the suspicion that if it stops talking about itself, it’ll cease to exist.
Which begs the question: does social media exist? Or are we making the whole thing up?
If a Tree Falls in the Woods and No One Retweets It…
The social side of social media revolves around techniques meant to get others talking about you. The media side of the equation is less about the form of the content and more about its distribution. Mobile, web-based, downloadable, subscribable… These aren’t media forms. These are means of distribution.
What we have is people using multiple channels to convince you of their own merit, mostly so you’ll talk about them — and, specifically, so you’ll talk about their vast array of expertise, in subjects like…
- creating content,
- monetizing content, and
Is it any wonder that people believe Twitter is a wasteland of people discussing airports and breakfast cereal?
Are you shocked when the level of social media discourse reported by CNN or Nightline amounts to the same uninformed, knee-jerk reactions we already ignore when we scan through blog comments, but which the mainstream media somehow thinks represents America’s profound and timely wisdom?
Of course, it aggravates those of us who believe in the potential of social media, and it motivates us to prove the naysayers wrong.
But here’s the catch:
What if they’re right?
Does a Computer Know It’s a Computer?
If our entire medium did exist solely to justify its own existence, surely we’d recognize that lunacy and abandon it for something legitimately meaningful. Right?
Only if we can diagnose our own insanity.
Look at the blogs you subscribe to, the tweeters you follow and the podcasts you download. What percentage of those sources focus on something other than social media itself?
Look at your own output. What do you write or speak about most often? Is it a topic that has to be explained to anybody who hasn’t heard of Chris Brogan?
Odds are, those odds aren’t good.
So why do we do this?
And what would happen if we didn’t?
I Wrote a Play About This Playwright Who Writes Plays About Playwrights Who…
What if you spent more time writing and reading about a topic other than the web itself?
Who’s creating dynamic media that happens to be online, rather than media that only matters online?
How can you use social media to teach others about a subject besides social media?
(You do have other interests, don’t you?)
Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to perpetually explain what you did to people (and why), because the value of what you do would be obvious even to people who don’t own smartphones and who think Amber Naslund was the bassist in Jem?
I know, it’s a scary idea. The first rule of Fight Club was “don’t talk about Fight Club,” because if you did talk about Fight Club, then Fight Club might cease to exist.
With us, it’s the opposite: if we stop talking about social media, then we cease to exist.
Or, more specifically, we cease to exist in our own little fishbowl.
But if we’re only special to each other, we’re not really special at all, are we?
We’re just people with make-believe jobs and titles, who invent our own conferences and pay to hear each other speak about speaking about talking about blogging about ourselves.
And call me a cynic, but I think we can do better.
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