My morning newpaper is now Twitter.
The other day, I noted that my morning ritual had changed since I embraced Twitter – I now really enjoy an early 30mn in the day, with a cup of coffee , and Twitter as a modern-day version of the newspaper. I tweeted this observation and got a good dozen of answers from my followers, all telling me they were like me. Truth be told, I’ve never had a newspaper habit, but I now love getting my news via friends and peers, from those 500 of so people I chose to follow. From memes to jokes to marketing news and blogs, it’s my daily source of most relevant inspiration, information and entertainment.
For many, Twitter, Facebook, or bookmarking services now serve as news sources, all with a major advantage over traditional media. This advantage is best described as the Social Filter. No need to crawl yourself through the endless clutter of ‘all the news fit to print‘: simply read what trusted sources post or repost, and you are guaranteed to find news relevant to your interests. Some people even argue that a serious user of such services should never subscribe to any publishers directly (be it CNN, Mashable or Chris Brogan), but rather set their sights on readers of these sources who will retweet only the best pieces.
It’s all a huge ponzie of social news that Dick Costolo and Mark Zuckerberg are preparing for us.
OK, this is what I do. And it works well… Much too well in fact.
Here’s the big downside of Social Networks as sources of shared news and opinions: you like everything. Everything is relevant to your interests, consistent with your established opinions, fits your view of the world. It hit me while reading yesterday’s post by Seth Godin, titled “Three ways TV Changed Everything“. I’ll quote the segment that really got me thinking:
The mcw (million channel world) bring silos, angry tribes and insularity. Fox News makes a fortune by pitting people against one another. Talkingpointsmemo is custom tailored for people who are sure that the other side is wrong. You can spend your entire day consuming media and never encounter a thought you don’t agree with, don’t like or don’t want to see.
Think about it. Can you spend your entire day on Twitter, reading tweets and clinking links, without ever encountering a thought you really disagree with? I went back in my timeline yesterday and realized how right Seth was.
The Social Filter is highly polarized.
There is no evil plan at hand here; just human gregariousness. Everyone I friend on Facebook is… well, a friend. I picked all my trusted sources on Twitter. Chances are that if you are reading this, you are probably connected to me via one of these two (@ me on Twitter if that’s not the case.)
How did I pick you?
- either I already knew you,
- you said something I thought was clever,
- you shared a story I found interesting,
- or you were recommended by someone I respect.
Photographers will appreciate the ‘polarizing’ filter analogy – it’s a filter that lets light rays come through only from a particular direction. As a Social Filter, my twitter-following-list is highly polarizing because I populated it with people I agree with in the first place. So there is really no surprise that I only see opinions and news I agree with: it comes only from people I agree with, from one direction only. Mostly.
Why this is bad: if we’re 106,000,000 and we all think alike, we’re 105,999,999 too many.
Well, unless you’re a real fan of Fox News or another news outlet tainted by a particular view of the world, you may like to get multiple perspectives on any issue; you want to have the opportunity to weight both sides of a debate to form your own thoughts; and seeing news that are sometimes unexpected and different from what you’re used to will broaden your perspectives. If I’ve learned anything from holding a “global” marketing job, it’s the value of diversity – situations, points of views, opinions. What’s the point of having access to 106 million Twitter users if you only listen to the ones who think like you? You just end up talking and listening to yourself.
So what should we do about it?
Simple – we need to find our contrarians, our antagonists. We must seek sources of divergence, value debate and disagreement. Have as many zaggers to our own ziggings in this so-called Social Filter of ours. This is why I value the point of view of someone like Dan Perez (@danperezfilms), who won’t hold back when he does not agree. Or that of Olivier Blanchard (@thebrandbuilder), who posted a major rant yesterday about social media conventional wisdom and his frustration at not being able to impact more of its practitioners. And this is why I will be most happy if at least half the comments to this post tell me the thousand ways I got it wrong (so long as the other half wishes me a Merry Christmas!)
We can all start today!
Here’s my plan. Let’s make #FollowFriday useful again, as opposed to this self-serving clutter of @mentions.
Instead of recommending someone because you agree with them, or like them, find someone who bugs you, who shared something you did not like or did not agree with. And explain just that. Let’s cherish #zaggers in our timeline and make it a point to hold on to those who make us cringe… and challenge our established points of view.
Trust me, you’ll thank me later. You can even say that person you disagree with… is me 😉