Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

The Social Ego System

On Sunday, Brian Solis tweeted:

As you might imagine, at first many people were confused and assumed Brian mean “ecosystem.”  But, in fact, he hadn’t erred.  Nope. He actually meant to type “egosystem.”  I find this fascinating, because the one single truth that 99% of people refuse to acknowledge is that social media has nothing to do with “adding value,” “conversations” or “engagement.”  None of those things really matter.  What social media is all about though, is EGO.  To quote Al Pacino from The Devil’s Advocate, “Vanity is definitely my favorite sin. So basic. Self-love. The all-natural opiate.” That’s what social media is all about.

The rise of social media has simply given everybody the ability to stroke their own ego in public. And let’s be honest, it’s no fun stroking your ego in the comforts of your own home and without an audience.

This isn’t a brand new concept. Years ago I worked on Hallmark. We wanted to understand the emotional reason that people bought and sent Hallmark cards. After months of research, it became clear that the real reason people bought and sent Hallmark cards was they wanted CREDIT. It wasn’t about doing something nice for your fellow man, friend, family member, or colleague. No, it wasn’t something that nice. It was all about them wanting to have you owe them. Think about it. If I send you a birthday card, sure it makes you feel good, but it also makes you say, “wow, that was really thoughtful of Adam, I’ll make sure I send him one too.” If the card was really thoughtful and unexpected you’ll even share it with other people – which simply grows my stature in their eyes.

Kinda makes you feel a little dirty huh? Well guess what? Social media is the same thing. People add value on twitter so that they can grow their followers and get that all mighty re-tweet. They offer helpful advice on their site, because they want traffic, want their site to be “dugg” and passed on. Trust me, it’s all about the means justifying the ends. And in this case the ends are things like money and speaking invites. Having met a lot of the so-called leaders in this space in person I can tell you I’m unimpressed. Maybe my standards are too high. But, for people that are supposed to be about providing value and engaging in conversations – they certainly come across as ego-centric broadcasters (no two way conversation).

I encourage you not to feed these people. If you do, you’re simply growing the giant social ego system.

  • tdhurst

    Am I the only one that thinks Solis seems like an egotistical jerk?

  • Your Hallmark story is very telling. Even under the guise of being helpful or thoughtful, many people hope that “what goes around comes around” and that they will personally gain something out of their good deeds. Altruism is rarer than people think (in my cynical world view)!

    With regards to social media, yes, you and Solis are right in that it now makes it easier for us all to be “helpful” and then reap the rewards of that help in terms of backlinks, retweets, speaking opportunities, etc. But in some cases this is okay. It's a soft-sell, and I'd rather have someone soft-sell me on their expertise via their helpful blog posts than be constantly inundated with hard-sell marketing tactics. And in many cases, even though there is an ultimate end in mind, a lot of these folks really do add value and in some cases go above and beyond to help others out (I've built relationships and been able to talk about career paths with some of my Twitter mentors).

    However, what I don't like is when the shameless self-promoters (or ego-centric broadcasters, as you call them) start taking advantage of the networks they've built through helpful two-way conversation. I've seen a handful of people of late who started out as friendly and interesting and now seem to be in it just for their ego. I have no patience for that.

  • hellobozarth

    Although I agree that SOME people use social media to get comments on photos, make claims that they have more followers than so-and-so, etc., and yes to stroke their ego a bit, I think you're underestimating those who leverage social media outlets for connecting,engaging and adding value. This is based on the individual's (& their follower's) definition of each of the categories listed above and their perception of what they feel they are giving/receiving via these outlets. I personally do not believe that it's solely for narcissistic reasons by any means. But if that's how people feel they are getting value, then that's how they choose to leverage these informational outlets.

  • Amy

    Thanks for the comment. I think you are spot on about the ego-centric broadcasters of late. We really need a social media sheriff to call these people out and separate pretenders from contenders.

    Adam

  • Your Hallmark story is very telling. Even under the guise of being helpful or thoughtful, many people hope that “what goes around comes around” and that they will personally gain something out of their good deeds. Altruism is rarer than people think (in my cynical world view)!

    With regards to social media, yes, you and Solis are right in that it now makes it easier for us all to be “helpful” and then reap the rewards of that help in terms of backlinks, retweets, speaking opportunities, etc. But in some cases this is okay. It's a soft-sell, and I'd rather have someone soft-sell me on their expertise via their helpful blog posts than be constantly inundated with hard-sell marketing tactics. And in many cases, even though there is an ultimate end in mind, a lot of these folks really do add value and in some cases go above and beyond to help others out (I've built relationships and been able to talk about career paths with some of my Twitter mentors).

    However, what I don't like is when the shameless self-promoters (or ego-centric broadcasters, as you call them) start taking advantage of the networks they've built through helpful two-way conversation. I've seen a handful of people of late who started out as friendly and interesting and now seem to be in it just for their ego. I have no patience for that.

  • hellobozarth

    Although I agree that SOME people use social media to get comments on photos, make claims that they have more followers than so-and-so, etc., and yes to stroke their ego a bit, I think you're underestimating those who leverage social media outlets for connecting,engaging and adding value. This is based on the individual's (& their follower's) definition of each of the categories listed above and their perception of what they feel they are giving/receiving via these outlets. I personally do not believe that it's solely for narcissistic reasons by any means. But if that's how people feel they are getting value, then that's how they choose to leverage these informational outlets.

  • Amy

    Thanks for the comment. I think you are spot on about the ego-centric broadcasters of late. We really need a social media sheriff to call these people out and separate pretenders from contenders.

    Adam