Thoughts on Anti-Social Media

I was recently interviewed by a marketing student. Here’s some of what I didn’t know I had to say:

Q: How have you seen social media change your work?

Social Media has created a “ME-centric” world, where people are constantly updating, posting, and bragging about what they are doing at any given moment. From Facebook to Instagram to YouTube, we spend hours each day talking about ourselves and checking in on our networks of friends (or un-friends). This is time that used to be spent either watching TV, reading, talking—or actually doing things. When it comes to advertising, we’ve seen an exodus from traditional media to the internet. The rise of rich banner ads and web films has exploded in the last five years.

In one way it is much harder to reach a consumer. It used to be that you could run an ad during a TV show, like “24” or “Friends”, and pretty much every 20-35 year old would see it. That was the era of appointment television. Today, people are time-shifting on their DVRs, streaming Netflix, or splitting their attention across the 700 cable channels. Or they’re on Facebook. You have to spread your media dollars a lot wider to reach them these days.

On the plus side, if we as advertisers can learn about a consumer through his social media posts, then we can use that information to post ads and messages that the person may find relevant. For instance, if a person “likes” “Squaw Valley”, then Toyota might display targeted ads featuring 4x4 trucks and SUVs in the snow. People still hate advertising, but if it’s about something that interests them, they’ll hate it slightly less.

Q: How do you feel social media will change your children’s childhood in comparison to your own?

When I was a kid, we had to actually make phone calls to keep in touch. Or spend time hanging out. Growing up, we just used to walk into each other’s house to play. Today, doors are locked, and parents have to schedule “Play Dates” for their kids to get together.

I suppose social media makes it easier for teens to find parties. And it’s easier for kids to connect with friends who have similar interests. I worry about cyber-bullying. And it creates a sense of isolation. If you are online, then you are less inclined to get together with other kids and do stuff. And doing stuff is where memories are made.

I would hope that my children will have the self-control to use social media as a tool, and not a crutch. It’s addictive, shallow, and never-ending. It’s a bit like a cheap drug—one that probably is not so good for us in the long run.

Q: Do you see these changes as positive or negative and why?

In general, change is going to happen. And if you think about the rate of change in the world, technology, communications, and social media are evolving and being revolutionized at an every-increasing speed. There have been more technological advances in the past 40 years, than the previous 400.

That means that children are growing up in a seriously ADD world. They don’t have time to just chill and be kids. They are being asked to multi-task, build websites, create startups, and connect, connect, connect—with little down time for their creativity to be developed. Education has changed due to the internet as well. Now we don’t actually have to learn anything. We can just Google it.

Now I don’t think that all change is bad. I am amazed at the things I’ve been able to produce using just a computer or a cell phone and the internet. Is there a limit to what we can imagine for the future? The only limit will be if children’s imaginations are stunted by a lack of time to just explore and be creative. That means we all really need to start hanging up on social media. Perhaps it’s time for the rise of anti-social media? Don’t click “like.” Let’s click “ignore.”

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