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Anti-social media

2010-08-18 14:40
We’d initially met in real life in our anti-social circle of mutual frenemies, and would occasionally find ourselves at the same loud parties, in various states of inebriation, under constantly clashing relationship statuses and surrounded by hawk-eyed observers. So if it wasn’t for MySpace, then Facebook, then SMS, we might have never had a real conversation. I usually suck at asking women out on dates, but thanks to social media, this daunting task was even easier than buying porn.

So of course, I’m a huge fan. Social media allows me to spy on people I find interesting, but not interesting enough to actually talk to. I can also check out all my ex-girlfriends' photo albums, laugh at their dorky new partners and watch with glee as age and multiple cake overdoses transform them from a bright young gym addict to a heaving sack of butter. And then there’s my personal favourite – the bohemian left-wing rebels who are slowly maturing into carbon copies of their DA-voting parents. Over time, a social media profile can seem like a hideous train wreck played in ultra-slow motion. Yes, including my own.

I guess it can be tragic if you think about it – so I don’t. I prefer to focus on the positive, like the time I used Facebook – and nothing else – to invite friends to my birthday party, which was enough to fill the bar with people who could afford to give me things. Or the fact that I can share my holiday photos and everyone can say "Oh, that’s lovely!" without going through the tedious experience of looking through all my holiday photos. And you can stare at people you really shouldn’t be staring at for as long as you want. While drooling. Come on, who doesn’t do that?

Social media is so-called because it’s exactly that: Twitter is a cliquey circle jerk of ass-kissing attention whores in a perpetual 69 position who feel a pang of rejection if they don’t get at least three responses when they announce to the world that they approve of the office’s new blend of coffee. Facebook, fast becoming a confirmation of one’s own existence and admissible in court as evidence of reality itself, is a haven for voyeurs and exhibitionists in denial, a logical extension of a baby-on-board bumper sticker that, given the prominence of its relationship status function, is one short step away from automatically announcing your abortions to your extended family. But there we are.

I figure anyone who wants to friend or follow me deserves to, and because I accept all requests, no matter how drool-worthy the profile pic, I’ve met a few awesome people and picked up some disquietingly silent lurkers along the way. Just like in real life, only without the hassle of real life.

That’s why social media is so popular, but unfortunately, its very popularity is about to make it shitty. Shittier.

Enter business. There’s barely a company left in the world that hasn’t had a workshop on how they can pretend to be actual human beings so that their marketing strategy can include a presence on Facebook and Twitter.

Corporate intrusion into social media is as welcome as a 40-year-old narcotics officer gate crashing a matric dance after-party. Or at least it should be. By definition, social media is for people, and companies are not people. Sure, there are people in companies, but we all know how we change when we go to work. From nine to five, our personalities are drowned in corporate manifestos, mission statements and memos. If all goes well (for the company, that is) we become mindless drones, an orange robe away from a cult member, regurgitating buzzwords and obsessing over meaningless minutiae, which, if we still had our wits about us, would drive us to Cobain ourselves at the next birthday tea and cake we’re obliged to attend for a colleague we actively loathe. We suppress our humanity because business is inhuman. That’s why we say "it’s just business" when we do something to someone that would keep us awake at nights if we did the same thing in real life.

If you’re in marketing and working on a social media strategy for your company, here’s a suggestion: stay the fuck out. Mr Price is not, and will never be my friend, and I don’t think it’s paranoid of me to be a bit freaked out that Nokia is following me on Twitter. Make your website, saturate the airwaves with your horrible adverts all you like, but please, have some respect and stay out of my social life.
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