New media thinks it is in the connections business. But it is not. Not really. This started as a reply to Alejandra Vergara’s Social Media post.
I was originally on “The WELL” – my first “new media” – and later a few other online communities. I came to greatly dislike the WELL. I still have trouble thinking of Rheingold, who brought me to The WELL with his book. He downplayed the awful, and published fantasies that he knew were false – that was shown by a few key posts he made (an intervention to prevent another hounding to death by the digerati mob.) But – I left The WELL so long ago that many readers will have grown up, gone to college and gotten married since then. Who knows what it is now? The WELL was where I had my first, last, and only date acquired online. (It was that bad.)
I have seen the last old-line online discussion forum I am involved in dying since Facebook’s meteor-crash onto planet earth. People on the old forum have gone to Facebook, and conversations go there, tending toward the simple: Here is my cat. Here is my child. I went on vacation. This is my summer, (Like, like, like…) Some speak politically in endless streams of sloganpics. (Like, like, like…) Some acquire 1,000 friends or more (what, what, what?…)
Facebook is almost anything anyone wants it to be, from a hookup site to a place to learn or suck identity info, though it tends to slide into the bit-pit of inanity. And if more than a few people arrive and post, there is always the idiot who can’t be bothered to read what has come before and must derail all who have. Overall, it is more civil than other places. You can get rid of people (something I have only done once.)
I have connected with a few people on Facebook in forums intent on discussing economics, and there are plausible forums for other things there. I have even had good and bad conversations with a few professors of note. (Although the loftiest eschew the new media – Facebook tends to be populated by young professors and those outside the Harvard-Stanford insanity bubble.)
The point of social media is not authenticity but availability of connection to the unwashed masses. (Before you barf at this cliche, let me expand.) These (linked-in, facebook, twitter) are new mediums, each vying for a growing share. There was a time when faxes got attention, because they were the new way. Then emails. Now Facebook and Tweets.
Like the first half-decent authors to self-publish for Kindle, (a few of which went on to millions) these new media allow new connections that cross boundaries – in the beginning when they are fresh and new. Those early Kindle authors (of a few years ago) are like Asimov, Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, (and many more) all of whom got their start in the sci-fi pulp mags. It was the new media of the 1930’s. But Kindle access too will fade, just as the pulps did, after saturating their market. Kindle has thousands of self-publishers now, most of them not very good. That is tilting matters back to the old-line publishers, whose raison d’etre is greater than ever – to separate wheat from chaff, worthwhile from waste.
Similarly, after the economics professors I mentioned find people worth connecting with (for them) are rare, and more and more bozos show up, bleating Ayn Rand , Tea Party, or Norquist, they cut it off. And then the conversation freewheels off into idiocy and the bozos are left holding the forum feeling victorious – they are too ignorant to know the story of Pyrrhus – and probably too dumb to care.
But at least the old pulp fiction magazines knew what business they were in. What none of these new media really get is that they are in more than the connection business.
New media are in:
A. The vetting of connections business. And that cannot be done by the mob. Networking has expanded, yes. But the vast majority of it is worthless garbage.
B. They are in the publishing business, which is a business based on vetting of content. That also cannot be done by the mob. Mob rule used to be spoken of as a horror. History tells us that the mob is an idiot, dangerous, stupid, and cruel. But the most dangerous aspect of the mob is that it is subject to demagoguery, subject to putting into power the worst of men. The 20th Century saw that over and over.