The “emotional contagion” study dramatically rips off a curtain that separated Facebook’s public face and its backstage. Publicly, Facebook woos us with a vision of a social information stream shaped by our individual needs and networks; backstage, the folks behind the curtain are pulling levers to find more efficient ways to hijack our attention and sell us stuff. (The frontstage/backstage theory sounds like The Wizard of Oz but is actually Erving Goffman’s.)
I started this blog in April as a means of maximizing the benefit I get from social networks. But over time, I find I like getting the most from social platforms while keeping them at arm’s length. That’s particularly true of Facebook.
The donnybrook between Amazon and Hachette will repeat itself between Facebook and online news sites.
Over the past 2-3 years, Facebook has begun to assume an Amazon-like role in the ecosystem of online news. We have quickly moved from a Web in which you got your readers either from search or from “organic” traffic sources (home-page visitors, regulars, and e-mail subscribers) to one where you get an enormous chunk of your readers directly from Facebook shares.
Not true for business-to-business news sites. Facebook isn’t much of a source of traffic for B2B tech news.
Not true for this blog either. I get 3.5x more traffic from Google+ than Facebook. Twitter, Reddit, and search engines are also bigger sources of traffic for this blog.
Still, Rosenberg’s main point is correct: Online periodicals rely on social media for traffic, and it’s only a matter of time until the online news sites start putting the squeeze on.
Scott Rosenberg discusses Jefferson Pooley’s essay about the American idea of self.
Pooley traces the history of personal authenticity through the lens of a mid-20th-century American intellectual tradition — thinkers such as David Riesman and Christopher Lasch. He outlines “the contradiction that is at the core of the modern American self,” which “could be summed up as: Be true to yourself; it is to your strategic advantage.” Our culture, Pooley writes, summons us to “embark on quests of self-discovery that promise to affirm our uniqueness”; then the “self-improvement industries and especially advertising” hitch along for the ride, or hijack the quest for their own ends. The same culture also commands us to “stage-manage the impressions we give off to others as the essential toolkit for success” — to cultivate our personal “brands.”
Choosing to be as Pooley puts it, “instrumental about authenticity” — being yourself because, man, it sells — creates a paradox. It’s like the paradox of the businessperson who learns to meditate on the futility of striving because it helps him close deals. You can make this kind of thing work for a while, but sooner or later it will catch up with you.
The way around the problem is to be in the moment. Be who you are at that time. Paraphrasing a science fiction writer (Roger Zelazny): Closing the sale today doesn’t matter in geological time, but because you are not a rock or a glacier, why should you care about geological time. In 100 years we’ll all be dead, but it’s not 100 years from now, it’s today. And next week won’t be 100 years from now either. It’ll just be next week.