In “Twitter and Facebook aren’t working“, Dave Winer writes:
We may think we’re being informed by these great social media tools, but more likely we’re being fed. High fructose emotional rage medicine. Here’s the next thing to be angry about. And the next and the next and so on. Facebook is a bit nicer… But something is seriously missing.
Of course something is missing!
First of all, what you see in many social media tools is just a pale reflection of the people that are posting the content on them. Getting to know the people in the flesh could be an eyeopener for you, as it did for Dave.
Secondly; “Social Media” aren’t necessarily very social, unless you’re someone who limits his or her social interactions by saying “Hodor“, I mean “Like“.
I have once tried to explain to my son that being a “member” of Facebook does not make you more social than someone who is not. Being able to manipulate a social media tool does not make you a social being. “Social behavior” is composed of actions, “which are directed at other people and are designed to induce a response” (see the Wikipedia). Those responses can take many other forms than “Like“, and the discussion about a “Dislike” button on FB barely touches the surface of that rich spectrum of emotions humans are capable of. Capturing those emotions with just a simple black-or-white decision such as “Like” is very, very hard, even when there is no software around to make things worse if it’s not thought through completely.
Consider the case of Eric Meyer: his story (on his blog) about the death of his daughter drew many reactions of sympathy. A culture where “popularity” – as in “many readers” or “many likes” – equals “success” (in terms of advertising revenue, for example) makes it very hard to see the reason for that “popularity”. In Eric’s case, it was mostly “compassion” for a family that grieved – is still grieving – over the loss of a loved one. Not exactly a cheerful event, nothing to brag about, and perhaps even not something you want to be reminded of by a dumb website…
“Dislike” and “Agree” and “I Feel Your Pain” buttons won’t be coming anytime soon, I’m afraid. In the meantime, we can only hope that social media tool developers will adapt the tools, to make it easier to opt out of any aspect of the tool that relies on dumb statistics. And even that might prove difficult, given the business models many social media companies rely on.