Sun 7 Jun 2009
I have been using Twitter for a couple of months now. It is a useful tool to follow people & trends. And a nice toy at times. But there is one thing about it that spoils the experience: it’s just one huge ad.
This tool supposedly invented to help people share what they are doing with friends has become one huge fest of shameless self promotion, a true 21st century global vanity fair. This self promotion seems to be centered on one thing: being “cool”. Maybe it’s the people I follow but in many of the tweets (that are not re-tweets and links) I see a disproportionate amount of words like “great”, “awesome”, “exciting”, “kick ass” and – of course – “cool”. All those messages paint an image that is reflecting our current culture as we already see it through mass media’s twisted lens: everyone is doing something exciting on groundbreaking projects in fancy offices of superb companies, then “chills out” at chic clubs or doing some “crazy” activities. Then goes back again to their “cool” work. Everyone is young, physically attractive, smart and interesting. Everything is “cool”.
This image is not new. It has been the backdrop for most advertising for decades, as vendors promised people entry into the paradise on Earth if they buy a pack of coffee or a fancy car. The change here is that before it was just the advertisers pushing this type of BS out in paid slots and now it is the masses trying to market themselves, their jobs, their lives – and in that and through that live up to the ideal they all try to follow and seem to subscribe to: the un-holy grail of coolness.
The desire to follow this ideal – or anti-ideal rather – is not new, too. Ever since mass media – and especially all-persuasive moving images coming from TV screens – started to push this unreal model of life people wanted to live up to it. But before masses could only buy products advertised and try to imitate the behavior and look of the “stars”. Now they can join the band and broadcast their own version of the “brave new world”. On Twitter. And Facebook. And possibly other sites like it.
In this sense the “social media” both reflect the state of society and amplify the trends that shape it.
I hope this is just a shinny facade people put up there and deep inside they realize life is so much deeper and more meaningful. But some are so good at advertising I start to suspect they believe it.