People don’t say things on social media solely for the sake of communication. They trade in subtext and reaction.
Subtext has always been there. No one says anything on social networks without considering, if only briefly, “what does what I’m about to write, say about me?” You generally don’t notice the exceptions to that rule, because you’ve already blocked or unfriended them.
That awareness of brand YOU is natural. But this widespread need to create reaction is a little newer and a little scarier.
Just as X-Factor has made the once mystical art of music stardom doable, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have turned everyone into one person PR agencies. With video shows like Rude Tube giving brief exposure to anyone with a camera-phone and print and TV news outlets turning to hash-tags for live reaction where they would once interview a witness, it’s easy to see the appeal in going viral.
But at the end of the day what’s the point of it all?
I have friends who are artists and business owners. The vast majority work their social networks like there’s no tomorrow, and I get it. They’re pushing their product. Good luck to them. But to everyone else…to the guy who videos his dog barking in time to Dizzee Rascal, what’s the point?
It can’t be fame, surely? If a group of fame-hungries can stay in the Big Brother house for months with video cameras and microphones following their every move – subject themselves to disgrace and ridicule – come out to huge crowds and still not become ‘faymus’ then why would our grime loving Labrador owner think his video would get him in Forbes?
So if it’s not the fame itself, is it the flirt with fame, or fame on a smaller more realistic scale? Has yesterday’s 15 minutes become today’s millisecond? Is this just a modern manifestation of our age old pursuit of being a household name?
Or is it that the thought of making no cultural impression is unthinkable in a world where so many do just that with only 140 characters?
Whatever it is, it now covers everything I see online with a thick layer of cynicism. I’ve got trust issues! I read a blog, tweet or status and instead of accepting the narrative and simply enjoying the words/sentiment, I find myself questioning the motive; its credibility.
Sometimes a piece passes my test and I believe again, sometimes they don’t and I just read the words. A bit like watching Al Pacino and De Niro.
I watch Pacino and completely forget the actor and see only the character. I watch Bob and generally (or least since circa 1990) only see Bob. I read a rare Pacino interview, where he described his motive for staying out of the Hollywood limelight. He said he didn’t want his personality to become too big, so as to overshadow the characters he portrays. Perhaps our need to be seen through the words and not necessarily read, lessens our credibility. Perhaps sooner or later we’ll all just view every written word on social media in the way we view TV advertising and political speeches: It sounds nice, but deep down it’s all a load of contrived crap.