Social Media is Like Cocaine

Growing up, I must have watched “Bill Cosby, Himself” at least 40 times. I can recite most of it to you from memory even today. I’ll spare you that trauma, but Cosby has his finger on the pulse of cocaine (this whole clip is hilarious, but his discussion of cocaine starts at 3:30):

Cosby’s friends says that cocaineĀ “intensifies your personality.” And social media does the same thing: it creates a platform for engaging in purely social experiences. Social experiences are, naturally, driven by personality. So, it’s really no surprise that this intensification exists – after all, the platform was designed for personality.

But, when Cosby’s friend says that cocaine intensifies your personality, Cosby’s retort is swift: “Yes, but what if you’re an asshole?”

And that is the real power of social: the long term, game changing position for social media is that it is changing behavior. It is changing our ideas about privacy. And, it’s forcing people to not be such assholes.

Recently, there have been several high profile Facebook defections (Leo Laporte, Matt Cutts, and Steve Tuttle – oh, wait, he abandoned last year!), in response to Facebook forcing open the front door to your internet-house, and opening up almost your entire life to publicly indexed search results.

Robert Scoble’s response to these changes is to ask people just what they are doing in Facebook that is so private anyway.

Many people may feel uncomfortable with that question because of their personal feelings about privacy. But, the norms around privacy are changing. Penelope Trunk says what many young people already believe: your privacy is overrated. The process may move in fits and starts – with some people “rebelling” or “opting out” but that will only be newsworthy because those people will be at the margin. I mean, the Amish are interesting too (by the way, how crazy is it that even the Amish have their own websites?), but if you are reading this on a computer, you probably don’t want to *be* Amish – you just want to gawk a bit.

By and large, living our lives in public is doing something transformational for society: it’s teaching us not to be assholes.

Believe me, we are not there yet. There are still many, many assholes that use social media to intensify their personalities (and some that use cocaine, too). Even more insidious are the people thatĀ pretend to be all inclusive and friendly to all, but when you try to engage with them using social tools, you are ignored.

But, this is a long-term transition – think in decades, not months. And the net result is that by using social media, people will understand how to use their network better. In order to leverage their network, people will have to be nicer to each other.

And nicer people means less assholes (no thanks to cocaine).

3 Replies to “Social Media is Like Cocaine”

  1. Thanks for a great read this morning! Your analogies resonated with me as I'm always telling my clients that social media is a way of amplifying their voice. It is a beautiful way for an excellent small business to project a big presence! But as Bill Cosby points out, what if you are a crappy business? Or a business with controversial and questionable practices? Just ask Nestle what happens.

    SM also caters to the voyeur in us all. When I was a kid, I was fascinated by what the other people were doing. I didn't quite have the courage of Harriet the Spy, so I had to satisfy my curiosity by catching glimpses into houses as my dad sped along back roads at night. My main discovery? Most people were basking in the eerie glow of their television sets.

    Today, the curtains and shutters of our lives and minds are flung open, enabling all to take a gander. Some glimpses are inviting, drawing us in and making us want to connect more, while others are more like unsuspectingly stepping into a dirty bathroom stall, making us turn away in disgust if we don't have the stomach to reach out to do a quick flush.

    More and more people are recognizing that privacy is just as illusionary as job security is (as an employee)!

  2. Dream on.
    I do wish it were true but SM is no more a magic pill that will really minimize assholeness than has the internet in general. It just helps the assholes all find each other more easily and vote their own asshole politicians into office.

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