The social web is starting to feel like high school


A while back I wrote an article about the fortress-like tendencies of the A-List bloggers and the sycophants who follow them. I compared it to an exclusive country club.

But as I’ve reached a wider audience and gained more experience on the social web, I’m learning that some of the online behaviors deserve even less credit than that.   A couple of anecdotes:

  • Last month I met with a high-profile blogger/speaker who said he had been “black-balled” by those following Chris Brogan (not Chris himself) because of disagreements he lodged with the uber-blogger.
  • Another top blogger told me conference speaking invitations had dried up since he criticized fellow A-list bloggers
  • I recently politely disagreed with a number of high-profile folks … who promptly “unfollowed” me on Twitter
  • One follower implied I was chauvinistic because I had more men than women on one Follow Friday tweet
  • A nasty and unprofessional online fight recently erupted between East Coast and West Coast factions over the issue of social media credentialing.
  • Recently, a well-known social media pundit named me as one their favorite bloggers.  One of my followers said she now had a “moral dilemma” of whether to follow me or not because she did not like the other blogger.

Pardon me folks, but doesn’t this sound a lot like high school?  Or worse.

The petty politics of every day relationships are exacerbated on the social web because we are making very limited assessments of people based on their written words. People seem quicker to judge, and harsher in their reactions without thinking about the real live human beings behind those little icons.  I’ve been guilty too.

In the end, I can only be accountable for myself.  The social web mantra of  “authenticity” and “transparency” is a load of crap.  Nobody is truly authentic. Nobody is truly transparent.  Nor should you be!  However, there is an urgent need for civility, tolerance and honesty in this space.  I’ll try my best to walk the talk in those areas and if this makes any sense to you, maybe we can support each other and make the change together.

Thanks for hanging in there through the rant.  You may now return to your social media high school home room, wherever that may be.  : )

Community alert: Sean Williams, a regular contributor to {grow}, pointed out this timely WSJ op-ed piece  on the subject of social web civility. Which was a civil thing to do.

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