Error State

by skot deeming

As I write this, Canadian media’s latest discussion is revolving around how our most recent election will be the first “social media election.” All I can think is: does anybody care? Now that social media has become fairly engrained in most people’s day to day communications, we’re sure to take it for granted or just plain ignore it, just like we’ve learned to do with most forms of mainstream media and advertising.
It wasn’t always this way. Social media, like Facebook and Twitter, started as great tools for communication and keeping in touch with friends near and far. And while we still use these sites for that, social networking has turned into another term for “shameless self-promotion.”  Many of us have become regular recipients of so much social media assisted spamming that I wonder if the notion of a social media election is anything of note at all.
Three years ago I relocated from Ontario to Manitoba.  At the time, these sites were my primary means of communication when keeping in touch with the folks I’d left back home. Soon, as I met people in my new city (Winnipeg), and started getting shows as a VJ and artist, I met more people, added them to my friends list and used these sites to feel more plugged into what was happening. Over time, though, what started as occasional invitations to interesting events grew and mutated into relentless onslaughts of invitations to openings, live shows, and I don’t even know how many “parties of the year.” Groups and fanpages I joined became vast fields of social ad spam and my inbox became clogged with invites, updates on events I was invited to, and even messages about events I chose not to attend. People who lived back in Ontario, or elsewhere in the world, were still sending me invites to events I had no chance of attending. The incoming information had no end.
Not only had all aspects of these social networking sites that were in some ways meant for the purposes of promotion turned into ad hoc advertising opportunities, so too did people’s profiles. Instead of images of a person (or something that that person thought was worthy of sharing), friends’ profile pics are also ads. Miniaturized posters of upcoming shows were now making every post by someone on my wall or news feed a potential ad no matter what the content of post itself. People say that when there’s a conglomeration of this many people in one place, of course people are going to exploit the opportunity.  I concede the point, but surely if those saturating our news feeds with the same information time again learned a little restraint and moderation, we wouldn’t see them as advertisers and we’d both be better off.
Instead we ignore the information, “unlike” pages, hide people from our news feeds and delete emails without even reading them. I’m all for filtering our own content, but in the glut that this beast has become, we have to filter more and more of it, until finally we’re endlessly scrolling for posts that resonate with us, just like we do with every other form of media that’s come before it. And it leaves me wondering: Is this the natural evolution of all media? MySpace started as something, turned into something else and we all fled, leaving nothing but a mass of ad space in our wake.
Until the next big social network comes along I guess we’ll all just keep filtering our content.  But I urge all of you who are out there promoting your work to consider this: instead of bombarding us with your information, let’s use these networks to have dialogues. It’s a lot less one-sided that way.

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