The end of social media innocence

by Ron on December 28, 2016

8583949219_9e7df7c399_hIt was a tough year for social media, one in which its once great promise came crashing to the ground in a toxic mix of derision, rancor and division. What was once hailed as a great democratizer has deteriorated into swarming hordes of hostility.

Back in the heady days of 2008 when social media was just beginning to find its footing (and I came up with the idea for this website), there was a sense of camaraderie among the early adherents, a belief that this internet-fueled medium could provide entirely new ways to drive communication, and perhaps even contribute to positive change in the world.

Back in those days, not everyone knew about or grasped the concept of Twitter and Facebook, the two primary offerings at the time. It was hard to explain the power of this broadcast medium. It was like none other ever created, giving individuals the power to communicate in an entirely new way and potentially reach a mass audience in the process. Podcamps blossomed, a uniquely designed un-conference, driven by the participants and designed to share ideas in a spirit of cooperation and a strong belief in the possibility of social media.

We started to see news break on social media before it appeared in traditional news outlets. It became a go-to medium to make friends, forge business relationships and learn about the world. The hashtag developed to tie together conversations in a channel that could be random otherwise.

We began to experience the real power of social media mass communication with the rise of the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street in 2011, two movements that were driven entirely by the ability to broadcast online and mobilize large numbers of people to affect positive change.

Unfortunately, over time those early feelings of camaraderie began to erode, slowly at first, and then in a great rush. As the medium mainstreamed, people began to feel more comfortable mocking ideas and individuals than with helping one another. Then, over the last couple of years, we have seen personal attacks become the norm, where people are pummeled, sometimes viciously, simply for airing the wrong opinion.

I think back to the earliest days when the tendency was to help, to reach out, to communicate, to find common ground. There was a naive belief that social media could be a positive force in the world and Podcamps were a real-world extension of that.

This year it felt like the last traces of those humble beginnings disintegrated. We witnessed the dark underbelly of social media, one in which people didn’t look out for one another, but instead belittled, bullied and berated. We watched as the era of social media innocence ended — and with it those early feelings of so much possibility.

Photo: Jason Howie on Twitter. Used under CC by 2.0 license.


Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 1.44.57 PMJive is an enterprise social company getting a bit long in tooth and it’s trying a new mobile strategy in the hopes of modernizing. Today it announced it was releasing Jive Chime, a real-time messaging app it hopes will compete with the red-hot Slack.

Graphic courtesy of Jive Software.


4978709667_edfdce7b2a_zSocial media was burning up last week over the Iraq war exaggerations of NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams.

Williams is being pilloried and lampooned in equal measure because he lied or exaggerated, depending on how judgmental you are, about his involvement in an Iraq war firefight.

In the days before social media and 24 hour news cycles, Williams’ story would likely have occupied our minds for a few days in the papers, maybe been the butt of a few late night talk show monologue jokes, and likely been quickly forgotten.

Today in the glare of the unforgiving social media spotlight, his long and distinguished career is being defined by this one moment, reduced to hashtags on Twitter and Facebook memes.

Williams’ foibles have been splashed across the Internet for all to scrutinize and will now live forever in Google and Wikipedia.

Surely, Williams made a mistake or two, but It seems a shame to me that all the good things he’s done in his long career will fade to black and the great Internet filter will leave us with the distilled version — his very public shaming — and nothing more.

I don’t watch television news. Brian Williams probably wouldn’t have entered my consciousness, or dare I say that of many of the same folks damning him or having a bit of Internet fun at his expense, but today all we know him as is that guy who lied about his time in Iraq.

And that’s a pretty sad testament to the state of the Internet in 2015.

Today it’s Brian Williams who is the latest victim of social media roulette, but it could be any of us having our mistakes spread across the world.

Before you take too much glee in his misfortune, remember that there but for the grace of social media go you.

Photo Credit: Anfuehrer on Flickr. Used under CC 2.0 license.

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5761539779_ae7959face_oBy now you’ve probably heard that Facebook released a limited version of its enterprise social product today. I talked to a bunch of people about the implications of this release and what Facebook is up against as it tries to take on the enterprise.




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