4 Bad Things About Social Media

Let me tweet about how fabulous and wonderful we all are!

Let me tweet about how fabulous and wonderful we all are!

Social media – from Amazon.com to Twitter – is transforming the way we work, live and play.  The advantages of instant and personal communications are growing – not only for personal development and networking, but the business benefits of one-on-one communications for marketing, promotions, customer service and idea generation are staggering.

But its not all wine and roses.  There are some downsides to social media.  Here are four of them:

1. It’s addictive

Pundits in social media don’t like to talk about the addiction factor (unless its talked about as a joke). But social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook can be terribly addicting. At its extreme – these addictions can kill. How about the 28-year-old man in South Korea that played 50 straight hours of World of Warcraft before collapsing and dying?

And, of course, we all heard how actress Jennifer Aniston broke up with boyfriend musician John Mayer because of his addiction to Twitter (like any sensible addict – Mayer denied it).

The good news?  Apparently, Internet addicts may be more productive at work.

But generally its best to create windows of time allotted to blogging, Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms during the day.  These are scheduled visits to check on updates, interact, deal with correspondence or leave behind a post or a comment.  Once the time is up – back to work.

(And here’s a quiz you can take to find out if you’re addicted to the Internet).  Good luck!

2. It’s unforgiving

We’ve all been at a dinner party where a guest makes an inappropriate remark. Most of the time it solicits an eye roll or a gentle rebuke from another guest. The guilty party will sheepishly apologize or quickly move on to another subject. It’s water under the dam within minutes. The truth is: we’re much more forgiving of transgressions when a person is in front of us. Or we when know them personally.

That’s not the case online. Make a blunder or have a slip of the tongue and you may be paying for it – for months. Maybe forever. Take the case of the PR VP from Ketchum, who went to visit a client in Memphis and made this tweet on Twitter: “True confession but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say, ‘I would die if I had to live here.’”

He doesn’t even mention the city. But his client – following him on Twitter – took umbrage. The incident was blown way out of proportion and become a minor Internet sensation back in January. The Ketchum VP was called an “idiot,” “dolt” and “D*bag” among other things. His professional credentials and his conduct were questioned and people actually thought Ketchum should fire him.

For a tweet about not liking a city.

Social media platforms are new – and we’re all still learning how to communicate with them.  So mistake are going to happen – and, in fact, should be expected.  Wouldn’t it be better if we all lightened up a bit?  If someone – like the Ketchum VP – makes a blunder and then apologizes then what’s the big deal?

3. There’s too much rudeness

What is it about the web that can bring out the worst in people? Is it the distance? Is it the lack of personal contact? Why do people think it is all right to personally attack another person? There are lots of examples of trolls in online forums and in any comment section of a popular blog post. But this type of behavior s now heading to other platforms. One of the most bizarre incidents of a personal attack occurred on Twitter back in February.

National Post technology reporter David George-Cosh (who has since left his post) unleashed a profanity-laced tirade on marketing consultant April Dunford. George-Cosh was trying to get in touch with Dunford to comment on a story he was writing and left her a voicemail.  She wrote a tweet about it – which sent him off on a tangent.

The proliferation of insults and personal attacks online has become so common that we generally ignore such behavior.  But for those unclear on the concept – if you disagree with someone’s opinion, analysis, or remark it is perfectly fine to do so and state your reasons.  It’s also all right to passionately disagree.  But its not acceptable to call them “idiots” or “morons” or use profanity or degrade them.  Speak to others who you would like to be spoken to.

4. The creepy new age, feel-good religious elements

I don’t want to pick on Chris Brogan because he isn’t one of the big offenders.  But his recent video posting on his birthday – “My Birthday Wish to You” – was a perfect example of this weird, New Age empowerment vibe that seems to proliferate some quarters of social media.

There is this idea out there that social media is the great leveler and allows for “ordinary” people to elevate themselves from the rest of the mundane pack and fulfill their dreams and become fabulously wealthy and achieve a Zen-like happiness.

Yeah, sounds like snake oil to me, too (Point of clarification: this idea as snake-oil – NOT Chris Brogan).

Social media platforms are communications tools – and very good ones.  Blogs allow ordinary people and corporations to self-publish to global audience.  Twitter and Facebook are redefining the way we interact and engage.  But social media isn’t a magic elixir.  Bad companies don’t become good ones because they have a MySpace page.  Good ideas don’t get better on FriendFeed.  The same recipes for success – creativity, passion, hardwork, intelligence, and luck – still hold up in cyberspace.

And that’s the Old Age reality.

26 Responses to “4 Bad Things About Social Media”

  1. Good post! I too have been having some fun with this topic as of late. Social media has its drawbacks and advantages, its fans and foes. But in the end, as you say, its simply a communication channel that marketers need to use wisely.

  2. Hi,
    Interesting post.
    For the record, David was contacting me as an ex-executive of a large company that he was writing a story on for the Post. I am not in PR and do not represent companies to newspapers.
    My initial Tweets were in response to the rude way he spoke to me when I returned his call.
    Details are here:

  3. Hi April:
    Thanks for qualifying (I’ll clarify in the post). I would also like to say that you handled yourself like a real pro.

  4. You had me – not agreeing with you but certainly understanding your point – until this whole Chris Brogan thing. You call it “snake oil” when he expresses something nice and thus, I guess, prove your own third point.

  5. Hi Sherrie:
    I wasn’t referring to Chris specifically when I mentioned snake-oil. And with good reason. I don’t think Chris peddles snake oil.

    I was referring to social media as a love tonic – in general. I think Chris and his site (chrisbrogan.com) are terrific – which is why I link to it in my blogroll.

  6. Good posting..

    I sometimes add the following lines to my posting to avoid personal attacks that do not add any value to the Internet..

    I neither reply to personal attacks nor participate in all the fights that I am invited to..

  7. I dont get the Brogan comments at all. He is the standard bearer of reminding people that even tho you may think you are anonymous you need to be respectful and decent. He also never talks over people’s heads that is very helpful while you are learning.

    You on the other hand probably understand neither.

  8. Good post, I agree with much of what you’re saying. While I’m not sure I buy the snake oil comment it always laugh when I see people pitching how they’ll help you get to some number of thousands of new followers on twitter overnight, especially when they have a fairly small # themselves. See my blog post on this behavior if you want a chuckle:


    At the end of the day social media is a tool, or a set of tools, which enable you to deliver a message (and hopefully listen to the responses). It is not a “silver bullet” for all of your marketing or communication ailments. Marketing communication teams must still

    – Determine your overall marketing strategy based upon the corporate strategy.
    – Determine the tactics you employe to achieve your goals, in some cases using new social media tools, but not exclusively using social media tools.
    – Execute.
    – Measure the results and refine your tactics as needed.

    Whatever you do, don’t badmouth the city your in, it’s bad form.


  9. Hi Lady O Trout:
    I pointed to Chris’s birthday video as an example of the “New Age-y” trend (and added that he generally isn’t one of the offenders of this) – but I don’t question his decency or his respect for others. So I don’t know where you are getting that from.

    Chris is a pro – and knows social media better than most. I’ve never met him, but I respect his opinions and his work.

  10. Great article – equal parts funny and true…just like social media

  11. Point #2 of this post is right on – we all know (or should know) that once you put something on the web, it’s there. Forever.

    But, your last point is way off base – Chris Brogan’s video’s to his readers was true Chris. He is the genuine, and really does care that much about his readers. I have had the pleasure to sit and talk with him and know that the video was made from the purest intentions.

    If you want to pick on social media – why not talk about all those using it incorrectly? Spammers on twitter, mass email marketers, celebrities using ghost-tweeters, etc…?

  12. You make some excellent points, though I think you could have probably found a better example to illustrate your opinion about the creepy new-age religious characteristics of some social media proponents. It does exist, and the Internet is certainly littered with evangelists trying to flog their own special blend of social media marketing services in this manner. I understand what you were trying to say about the video, but I’ve met Chris once or twice, listened to him speak, and I’ve never once felt as if I’ve tasted snake oil – beer, sure, but never snake oil.

  13. Hi Steve H.
    Yes, I’m discovering this the hard way! Point taken.

  14. I think the rudeness factor is the worse. I admit to severely limiting my online communications because I know I am dealing with people who will say things to me online, they’d never dare say to me in person. And apologies to Robert Scoble who I respect, like and admire, but there is NOTHING naked in the conversations that I see on blogs and social media sites when dealing with someone who hides behind a fake screen name and who won’t stand behind their words. I think the current generation is de-sensitized to the pain and turmoil they cause with their rants because they’ve never lived in a time when you used to have to have the guts to call someone out face-to-face. Thanks but no thanks. I’m not interested in “conversations” with anonymous trolls who can say anything they want to, true or not. That is the seedy side of this stuff and I am glad you brought it up. But heck, what do I know? I’m just an old man 🙂

  15. I see what you are getting at with your post but don’t get the shot at Chris Brogan.

    I have always found Chris to be nice, helpful and generous and has never asked for anything in return. He has been an encouragement to me. I have never met him and wouldn’t know about him if it wasn’t for social media.

  16. #4 is soooooo right on. Like other commenters, I also agree that Chris Brogan is not a great example of this, however Twitter is filled with these annoying people. Most tend to be in the social media biz and are just trying to build their personal brand. I don’t need to be told every morning that “today is a great opportunity to do somethin great..yardda, yadda”. Who the hell talks like that anyway?

  17. Hi Nick:
    Exactly. I used to follow this “social media guru” on Twitter (and I wish I could remember his name because he would have been the best example). One day in January after a terrible week of layoffs he tweeted something like: “You are unemployed because you don’t have a positive attitude and are mired in negativity.” He advised that replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts would land you a job.

    I tweeted back that I thought many people were unemployed because of the bad economy and corporate downsizing. And he wrote back that my attitude was exactly what he was talking about. Needless to say, I stopped following him after that.

  18. Everything you say applies to:

    1. blogs
    2. newspapers
    3. e-mail
    4. chat rooms
    5. snail mail letters
    6. Diary writing
    7. even Billy Bob Thorton (addicted to one’s own importance)

    I can’t say it enuf: New media and web social networking is old media and networking wrapped up in a new package.

  19. Hi Ninja:
    I disagree. For example, I didn’t know writing letters was addicting. And please describe how you can you have a flame war with someone else in your own private diary? I also must have missed when the Wall Street Journal become New Age creepy.

    While new media is an extension of old media – it is something else entirely.

    So I disagree with you assessment.

  20. It’s hard to talk badly about social networking because of the millions of people who use and like it. So I’m happy to find someone on the internet exposing the bad stuff. Facebook especially, for my generation, is irritating because everyone judges you based on your popularity and posts. Social networking alone has ruined my junior year in highschool, and I’ve decided to write a report on it. You took the words right out of my mouth when writing this. Thank you.

  21. Fantastic submit, very informative. I ponder why the opposite specialists of this sector don’t notice this. You must proceed your writing. I am sure, you have a great readers’ base already!|What’s Going down i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I have found It absolutely helpful and it has helped me out loads. I am hoping to contribute & assist different users like its helped me. Good job.

  22. So good ideas that lead people not to overuse them rudely


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