Marshall McLuhan would have been 100 years old today if he’d lived. This makes it a good day to remind ourselves of this insight:
“…an administrator in a bureaucratic world is a man who can feel big by merging his non-entity in an abstraction. A real person in touch with real things inspires terror in him.”
Or as Euan Semple put it in a tweet so memorable it’s morphed into a soon-to-be-published book “Corporations don’t tweet – people do”…
In many ways, the historic mission of social media is to get disinformation out of the way. Google is getting better and better at analysing what you say online and deciding if you’re a human being or a corporation – content farms are becoming useless. Sentiment analysis is a burgeoning business.
Increasingly, we trust our peers, buy on their recommendation and tune out corporate messages. We’ve got very good at doing this. You can even test this if you’re on Twitter. Try a service like Twitcleaner to find out how your stream ranks – and identify all of those memebots that you’re probably following and ignoring.
So what do human being do online? I’d say we should behave like we’d imagine ourselves behaving in person: We talk about all of our interests – not just the soap-powder we’re selling. We’re informal. We reply to people who talk to us, we don’t shout over people or self-promote too much. If we find someone saying something better than we can, we defer (link) to them.
At the same time, we have the advantages of being online: impersonal communication can have it’s advantages. You can get into arguments and sometimes hear the things people would be too inhibited to say in public. Don’t worry about this – it’s OK.
And finally, there are plenty of clever thought-leading bloggers….. tune into them and see how they do it.
Here are a few that I like a lot:
- Stumbling & Mumbling – Chris Dillow (an economic journalist who blogs independently of his day-job)
- Labour & Capital – a thoughtful left-of-centre blog that seeks to take the debate outside of the usual silos – a good model of political blogging
- Charlie Beckett – a former journalist and academic who maps out the future of his old profession
- Euan Semple – worth reading for more insights on how social communications changes organisations
- Matthew Taylor – the chief at the RSA and a former No10 insider
- Better still, start using Google Reader – you can see my daily selection of the best of the blogs here.