Monday, May 2, 2011

Quirks, Quarks, and Social Media

Salon featured an interview with Alexandra Robbins, author of  The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth. The message of  Why It's Good to be a High School Loser appealed to me. I read the interview. It was worth it. (Quirk Theory is almost as much fun to say as quark.*) I think it has a good chance of being a popular book, which is to say, I think many people will consume the book or the ideas in it. 
As a person who rarely ate in the cafeteria and can hardly remember sitting with the same person twice, I'm not sure that her findings on the defining and isolating power of cafeteria tables are solid, but I do think the analogy she draws between on-line social networking and her imaginary cafeteria tables is interesting. I wonder if, in the book, she explores SoundCloud or ScrewAttack . I wonder that, because I think Facebook and Twitter are less interesting, by far. 

Never believe grafitti. 
Facebook is like homeroom. You show up. You touch base. You show a face to the world. You pass secret notes to people who know that isn't your real face. Every once in a while the teacher gets a bug up the butt and rearranges the seating. 

Twitter is like having a conversation in the bathroom: Short statements and echoes on the tile. A little graffiti. TMI. Way TMI.

Alexandra Robbins describes three elements of popularity: Visibility, recognizability, and influence.
Those are very applicable to social media. I'd also go a little further and say that's an excellent schema for using social media to promote something—like a book.

Visibility means search engines see you. If they don't see you, you might as well be invisible.
Recognizability means your avatars are quick to read and remember. I really hate the word "branding," but there you go: branding.
Influence means people follow you. 

I'm going to confess one of my deepest frustrations with social media: Numerical evaluation. I hate it. My revulsion may be pathological and directly related to the fact I wasn't a popular person in high school. Or it could be because the metrics for influence are almost always numerical, quantitative. I think those metrics are misleading. If you sit down with a quote-a-day calendar you can tweet enough to bump the stats. If you are part of an echo-chamber marketing scheme, you can bump the stats. It's all pretty illusory.

I'm a limited person. I can provide direct, high-voltage attention to one moment at a time. That's it. That's my sphere of influence. 

* "I like to say 'quark'Quarkquark quark!" —Hobbes of Calvin and Hobbes. As far as Quirk Theory goes, I'm pretty sure I got the quirks.

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