June 19, 2008 |
New York Magazine featured an op-ed piece today in their News and Features section that just had me cringing. Basically, it invited all of America to add to the pointless noise level of the internet and social media. The whole article is a classic case of missing the point.
The first thing that struck me was that the author, Rex Sorgatz, was patting himself on the back for not continuing his search for what he called "microfame" online, after his brief experience with it via his blog being sued. Really? You don't think a puff piece in the New York Times tooting your own horn is a cry for microfame-style attention, Rex? I do.
The second thing that struck me was how he missed the point of all but a couple of the microfamous online personalities he mentioned. Sure, he got it right on a couple of the people mentioned, like Julia Allison – the Queen of TMI (too much information). But he missed the mark dramatically on some, like Ze Frank, creator of the year long Ze Frank's The Show and original dancing machine.
Above all else, his instructions on how to add yet more pointless content to an already overflowing firehose of information got my goat. Videos like Chocolate Rain and Leave Britney Alone brought their creators fame precisely because they were so random. Asking people to create their own videos and content strictly for the purpose of becoming viral and getting a taste of internet fame will do nothing beneficial that I can see, as it removes that playful, random aspect of it all.
My main concern is not with people who are already online. Those of us who regularly surf the wave of the social web are used to finding ways to turn the firehose off and on, to knowing what is real and what is fake (LonleyGirl15) and to directing the flow. We all have our favorite tools, whether it is FriendFeed, Twitter, Flock, feeds, or what have you. No, it is with the offline folk whom I am constantly trying to get to try the internet to improve their communications in some way.
I think that new internet users will see this as being in New York Magazine, and thus worthy of attention, then will attempt to enter the internet without a safety net, as it were, and become overwhelmed. Drowning new internet users in this kind of overload is not the way to make new converts to the internet, or to social media, in my opinion.
I'm interested in hearing the thoughts of other social media types out there on this issue. Is there such a thing as too much useless content? Is scaring new internet and social media users away from the online fishbowl something I should care about, or do we like our world closed to new access? Am I seeing a tempest in a teapot here?
Image of Julia Allison courtesy of New York Magazine.