Is the brainless promotion of social media coming to an end?
At last year’s Association Congress, in London, delegates were almost beaten into submission on the subject. Social media is here to stay. You WILL participate. The alternative is EXTINCTION. A year later, and with 12 months of pointless twittering under their belts, delegates were given a very different story, a warning about where all this compulsive ‘sharing’ is taking us.
It came from the author and broadcaster Andrew Keen, an internet entrepreneur from Silicon Valley, who questions if social media and free, ‘user-generated’ content is, in fact, debasing our culture. He told delegates in Liverpool that associations came from the industrial age with its ‘regimented structures’, whereas we now live in a knowledge-based society where skills were not set. A contentious start. And it didn’t get any easier on the ear…
“Associations are basically exclusive, they exclude," he said. "The internet is inclusive. It’s flat. There are no walls on the internet. In a sense Facebook is the new congress of associations.”
Mercifully this was not another cheerleading session for Web 2.0. In many ways Keen is a fan of associations. Or at least the idea that content is not necessarily best generated – or delivered – in a free-for-all, and predominantly free, environment.
Associations have been the expert guardians of knowledge and Keen reckons that social media, rather than emulating an 18th century coffee house of intellectuals, has basically become a haven for amateurs to pontificate and trolls to rant and rave Where is the value in this?
He warned delegates against blindly following the new orthodoxy of social media where everything is shared and nothing is private.
“As protectors of associations you should be very wary of sharing everything online. In many ways you should be reinforcing your walls, building them taller. You should be selling your exclusivity.
“You should not embrace social media automatically and unreservedly. Beware the ideology. Do not embrace it in a way which undermines who you are and what you stand for.”
Judging by the mini scrum at the book signing that followed (Keen’s new book Digital Vertigo is out now) his message struck a chord with a group of people for whom content is still something worth paying for.