Among the many modern words in today’s vocabulary I don’t particularly like are buzzwords like user engagement and brand. The former is a very loose-meaning relation to connection, while the latter is (or feels like) an attempt to remove the personality from your person.
As more awareness comes to light about the role of social media in the world today, it’s starting to become very clear just how pervasive a problem this is.
For instance, note this selection from Antonio García Martínez, writing for Wired:
Whatever piece of content, however brilliant or vile, that received an escalating chain reaction of user engagement would receive instantaneous, worldwide distribution. Having “gone viral” became a greater trophy than appearing “above the fold” (now a ludicrous concept).
Translation: it doesn’t have to be good, critical, or thought-provoking, just as long as people can’t stop talking about it. That is, until the next thing rolls around.
If you follow the links in the article above, you’ll find one to Mark Zuckerberg’s first post-election post, which yielded this (emphasis mine):
We helped millions of people connect with candidates so they could hear from them directly and be better informed. Most importantly, we gave tens of millions of people tools to share billions of posts and reactions about this election. A lot of that dialog may not have happened without Facebook.
To users, here’s what Zuckerberg likes to say:
Our goal is to connect people with the stories they find most meaningful[.]
But to the people who Facebook accepts money from (read: anyone but their supposedly core user base), they say this (emphasis mine):
Facebook, which told investors on Wednesday it was “excited about the targeting”, does not let candidates track individual users. But it does now allow presidential campaigns to upload their massive email lists and voter files – which contain political habits, real names, home addresses and phone numbers – to the company’s advertising network. The company will then match real-life voters with their Facebook accounts, which follow individuals as they move across congressional districts and are filled with insightful data
It’s not about what they say, it’s about what they do.