Social Media Reconsidered (Again)

On February 22, 2011, in HRExaminer, John Sumser, More2Know, by John Sumser


Facebook helps us maintain the illusion that obnoxious little sound bites and cleverness are a substitute for intimacy and depth.

Social Media Reconsidered (Again)

When I got home from the TRULondon conference (more about that later), I discovered that my son had terminated his Facebook account. I was surprised by the level of concern I felt. Cut off from the constant flow of information bits about his life, I felt worry and sense of loss

Ray’s patterned release of status updates gave me the feeling of being clued in. The dribs and drabs of online small talk were a convenient substitute for real connectedness. The mere threat of losing that connection created a palpable fear in my heart.

Right there, after my parental instinct to fix something, was a series of surprising insights.

Facebook has become the global water cooler. Tidbits of information pass themselves off as intimacy and understanding. The barrage of minutia is warm and snuggly, just like the feeling you get before you die from hypothermia. Meaningless noise, delivered with appropriate timing, passes for a deeper reality.

Our social instincts are fooled by constant stimulation. Facebook helps us maintain the illusion that obnoxious little sound bites and cleverness are a substitute for intimacy and depth. We trade bumper sticker sensibilities. We posture to make our little accomplishments seem bigger than they are.

Somehow, the constant pinpricks of awareness soothe our anxieties. We belong to the great oneness and have immediate access to transcendent experience. Abraham Maslow died a little too early; Facebook is ushering in the era of instant self actualization through marginal disclosure.

“OMG, is there something wrong with Carly? She hasn’t issued a clever gem in 36 hours. Has she fallen off the interesting wagon? Has the pathetic ness of her life caught up with her? How sad. Should we call someone? Do we need to send her a self-help book on restoring interestingness to your dismal life? Should we arrange an intervention?”

I decided to check things out with my usual advisors. As I asked around about the ubiquity of facebook, I found some interesting things:

  • All of the brouhaha about employers using facebook to screen candidates is resulting in the proliferation of faux-facebook accounts. Some Gen Y folks are treating their Facebook page like a resume. It looks much better than they do in public. Their ‘real status’ is elsewhere.
  • Like the mythical disappearance of email (in favor of texting), numbers of the under-30 set (and even more in the under-18 group) are eschewing facebook. Too many grownups.
  • Many of the people I talked to about seemed hungry for a deeper conversation. Cleverness sprints are not for the timid.
  • There was an undercurrent of ‘are you serious’? Most people understand that ‘community’ means watching the 7% of people who like to perform. As has always been the case, most people are lurkers.

The bottom line is that Ray is fine. He’s an artist. His job is to notice questions that aren’t being asked and then ask them. (Of course, Google has a cached copy of his facebook page. You can only terminate your online present and future, never your past.)

Meanwhile, what are all of these people talking about when they say ‘Social Recruiting’? Contrary to the hype, Facebook contains precious little information to help you distinguish someone’s viability as an employee.

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