On the most recent Media Hacks, we were discussing the Crocs extortion case, and this thought popped into my head:
The most dangerous part of social media is that it’s inherently self-selecting towards agreement, which means that fewer and fewer people will tell you that you’re wrong.
What do I mean? Simple law of attraction. We follow people we like. We read the opinions of those people we generally agree with because it’s pleasant to do so. We friend and become friends with those of similar perspectives, and we attract people of like minds.
When you surround yourself – or are surrounded by – people who agree with you 95% of the time, it can seriously distort your own self perception. When nearly every reply to your blog posts is “I agree!” and “OMG you’re so right!” you can start to believe your own press and develop an inflated sense of self worth, which in turn leads to things like blogger extortion, a la the Crocs case. When you read and listen to only the things that you like, it naturally moves your opinions to be more extreme.
You will naturally attract people of like mind. That’s okay. But as your efforts in new media and social media continue to reap rewards, take time out to self-balance and self-check. Re-center yourself by talking with the best of friends – the friend who is wholly unafraid to call BS on you and tell you when you’re wrong about something. Listen to that friend, that opinion, and use it to help you discern where you can improve.
Neil Gorman talked about this at Podcasters Across Borders – how too many people are afraid to disagree with “thought leaders” and “social media superstars”. I asked him the same thing I ask you – no matter how valuable you perceive someone is, the folks who you perceive as leaders desperately need you to call BS on us when we are wrong (me especially), so that we can continue to think critically, to learn, to grow ourselves.
We need your dissent. We need your clarity. We need your honesty. I in turn will be honest in my dealings with you. During the discussions about race and gender in social media at PodCamp Boston and afterwards, I was delighted to hear that a good number of people disagreed with my views, in some cases exceptionally vigorously. Good! The different perspective lets me see more and understand more, and I’m happier and better for it. I may still not agree, but I am better informed.
I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes from Barack Obama – we can disagree without being disagreeable. When I’m wrong, tell me. When you’re wrong, I’ll tell you. When we’re both wrong, hopefully someone will tell us.
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