The other day, a friend of mine added me to a Facebook group that is centered around stealth social media efforts in which likeminded folks loosely agree to promote one another’s work on Twitter, Facebook, etc. I can definitely see the logic behind such a thing and the fact is, I knew pretty much everyone on the list, which meant that it was, as far as these things go, relatively legitimate — so why did it bother me so much? It wasn’t spamming as much as it was coordinated word-of mouth, which is, of course, what the internet is all about these days, no? I have stuff that needs links, I like linking other people’s stuff, so why did I back out?
It finally hit me a day later, as I am slow to recognize such things. There was a distinct lack of authenticity lurking in the well-intentioned reasoning behind the group. The one thing social media does exceptionally well is give people a place to broadcast in their own voice, clearly. It doesn’t matter if you’re a shrieking Bieberite or a science fiction author renowned for their foresight – your voice is your voice. When you start trading that voice for favors, you start to lose what makes you different from the rest.
I approach Twitter very differently from many people, I know. I’m careful about who follows me, tagging spammers and blocking accounts that are following more than 1,000 other people, even if they’re in my “space,” as it were. I seek authenticity in every bit of engagement, positive or negative and when I link to something on Twitter or Facebook, it’s because I find some inherent value to it as part of the ongoing discussion.
I don’t ask for retweets, I don’t participate in Follow Friday, I don’t even do that thing where you put a period in front of your @ response so people see me thanking someone they don’t follow for liking what I do. These things have all become eroded as pieces of social media capital, static that overwhelms signal. I’d hate to lose what little cachet I have with my audience by doing what everyone else does. If I follow someone, it’s because I’m interested in what they have to say, not because I’m hoping for a follow back. If someone follows me, I hope it’s because they are interested in what I have to say.
All you have in social media is your voice. If you sell it out for the sake of a little short-term boost, what are the long-term consequences?