James Gardner of the Bankervision blog (nod to Tony for pointing me to this one) beautifully describes the presiding logic of insignificance in social media in this post. Below is the excerpt that hit my like a diamond in the forehead:
Over the past few days, I’ve been conducting an experiment: using my Facebook status, I’ve been trying to see just how ridiculously uninteresting I can get before people dump me.
On the first day, I told everyone that I was still breathing.
On the second, that my heart was beating, and I was counting how many times it did it.
For the third, I said that I’d blinked, but that as it was a normal bodily function, no one should be surprised.
And today, I have uploaded a photo of the specific piece of gravel on which I stand waiting for my morning train.
Here is what I’ve found out so far: the less useful the content is, the more people engage with it. You’d not believe the string of emails I’ve been getting.
Now, although this is not an especially scientific experiment, it suggests to me you can build engagement with social media on things that are unimportant and irrelevant. But when you say things which, theoretically, would be interesting and useful, paradoxically, no one cares. Social media is a channel optimised for the insignificant.
While some might think this is a slam on social media, I actually think it is a really perceptive and beautifully articulated description of the presiding logic of these social spaces. If you enter these spaces with pedantic recommendations, overly wrought theories, extreme beliefs, or a product to sell, chances are people will turn you off immediately. Yet, if you don’t have much to say, an axe to grind, or a specific idea to push, chances are others will not only engage you, but also listen. In many ways this seems counter-productive to the idea of thinking of these spaces as “learning” spaces, but I think that has everything to do with how we have traditionally framed learning spaces. Here there is a give and take that isn’t pre-figured as the authoritative domain of any one party—as a classroom always already is no matter how much we try and re-structure that spatial/personal relationship with all our hippie theories— but rather a conversation that we all have to disarm ourselves to some degree to enter with any kind of success and honesty.