Why social media is the Singing Cave of the Internet.
If we are excluded by echoes of polarity within a country and its people, how can we be challenged to solve problems as a team or tolerate differentiating ideas?
It has been my experience that social media platforms, more often than not, reflect what we want to hear rather than inform us. Let me share some examples. If I like several photos of Fords on Facebook, it doesn’t mean I hate Subaru. Liking sweet cookie photos on Pinterest doesn’t preclude my love of cakes. If I check out posts from a few friend’s at once, I still want to see updates from other people’s lives. If I view a politician’s speech or news coverage on YouTube, it does not mean I only want to see videos from said politician, political party or their surrogates. Often, social media feels isolating rather than enlightening. It’s akin to living in a cave.
In 2007, I had the marvelous opportunity to visit beautiful Iceland. While touring, we came across an enthralling location which translates into English as the “Singing Cave.” Inside the cave, every whisper echoes eternally. Caves like this one were used by monks hundreds of years before Vikings inhabited Iceland. When I was finally alone, I sang at the top of my lungs.
The reverberation of my singing felt visceral and surrealistic.
Descending into the Singing Cave.
I Link, Therefore I am
All social networks utilize algorithms to show us the information we are most apt to click on so we can spend more time on their networks interacting while experiencing advertising. In online marketing, my profession, we measure success by engagement. The metric relates how often people like, comment, share, and click on a network. We focus on this because engagement drives behavior, e.g. sharing and buying.
However, we have a problem. I believe the same algorithms that engage us, focus on reflections that instantly reward while reinforcing only specific views within a narrow part of our social circles.
The story of the cave.
Do Social Networks dream of electric sheep?
This propensity to drive behavior has become a double-edged sword. We have the argument for experiencing many posts from people we interact with frequently. We see posts, links, and ads for things we like and identify with ourselves. We seldom spend time engaging with the things we dislike. Therefore, we gravitate to the answers we want to hear regardless of this being a conscious choice.
Do these impressions broaden our outlooks or merely reverberate our voices?
We tend to see posts from very few people with whom we connect. We are far more likely to see things that those people like, have commented on, or share. Even our ads are hyper-targeted to what we are doing right now. If you are like me, you feel as if every product you click on is following you. Is this advertising or stalking?
In social marketing, it’s our job to share the book not write the ending.
Inside the Singing Cave.
The Singing Cave
We arrive at my two least favorite aspects of the “Social Media Singing Cave” –religion and politics. I have no issue with folks worshiping or believing in anything they choose nor being excited by the political candidates of their choosing. However, I do not enjoy others religious or political views being forced on me, particularly when posters profess to have the only answer to a problem or life itself.
As LinkedIn competes with Facebook as a social network, they’ve succeeded amazingly well in the “Singing Cave” category so far. I have mostly stopped interacting with Facebook for personal use because I’m sick of experiencing polarized views on everything. Even on LinkedIn, I am seeing an uptick in incendiary remarks and a lack of fundamental respect for peers and business contacts. I believe we must do better than this, and that we are better than divisiveness.
The Singing Cave of the Internet returns our projections.
Reflections of You and Me
I am troubled that in social media we are most likely to see posts that reinforce our existing views and beliefs instead of challenging them. If we are continuously exposed to these insular reflections, we all become objects of an inclusive mindset rather than a variety of ideas.
I believe that we must demand more diversity and tolerance from those who unite us via social media. To truly be social, media must reflect ideas from all of us and not only echoes of ourselves.
If we are excluded by echoes of polarity how can we be challenged to solve problems as a team or tolerate differentiating solutions?