It was a cold evening in February 2008, and I was out having a beer with my boss in Beaverton, OR that the idea of starting a blog first came up. She and I had both read an article about social media in our intranet and we discussed the idea at length . We left the pub convinced that we should both start a blog and see how it goes .
The only place I knew of people writing blogs at that time was SAP community network – SCN. The problem was that I had no interest in writing another “how to” blog , even though hundreds of them had helped me fix stuff in my own projects . I was already active reading and commenting on blogs at that time . So I thought maybe if I try to share my experiences on actual projects , maybe it will be interesting to a few people . So I started this in March 2008 http://scn.sap.com/people/vijay.vijayasankar/blog
That was a pleasant experience and pretty soon I joined Twitter , Facebook etc and started a personal blog here at http://andvijaysays.com for random topics . My social media habits have evolved over time – the latest being moving some conversations over to whatsapp – and has reached a stage where I need to evaluate if it’s worth my time to spend time on it .
There are many plus points
1. It is now my primary source of news . I scan all of them a few times a day to see if anything catches my eye .
2. It helps me re-establish old friendships from school days . Even managed to find and meet buddies from primary school that I haven’t seen in 25+ years and that is invaluable
3. It helps my work in many ways – customers know my POV when they google me , I find great candidates for open positions in my team and so on . Also gave me several friends whom I otherwise would not have met otherwise
But it comes at a steep price in terms of time and noise and lost friendships
1. It’s hard to filter social media to just useful things unless you are on it all the time . Just when I thought I got rid of all the “let me post every famous quote” and “top ten list” people on Twitter feed , I found that I had a huge “I am smart and rest of you are idiots” set of people to deal with. Now I follow less than 200 and even that doesn’t fully help me – so I spend an hour every few weeks tweaking it . I know election season will make it an impossible task for almost a year 🙂
2. The onus is always on the receiver to decide what is of value and what is noise . I just need to look at the mirror to find a perfect example of noise creation on Facebook . I have friends from my professional world , friends from dog shows , family and school mates in my friend list . If I post my thoughts on software world , it is noise to my dog lover friends . If I write something about dogs , my class mates will find it weird . I don’t have the time or inclination to pick and choose who gets to see what – so I add to the problem that I am trying to solve for myself
3. The best part of social media is people – and they are also the worst . People don’t always behave as adults in social media , especially in groups . I am right in the middle of one such group where 40 year olds act as 4 year olds throwing a tantrum . There is a cycle that repeats – handful of people with common interests come together and form a group , have a great time , pull in others , have a greater time , everyone gets comfortable and want to do greater things and solve world hunger , people take sides , smaller groups start, original group disintegrates – and so it goes over and over . Inevitably , the “founders” of the group are the ones who feel the pain the most . Moral : people are people , social media just provides a time lag for their true colors to show up . And when it shows up , social can help amplify the good or bad of it quite significantly
4. Social media tries to be an equalizing force and it eventually fails . I have now seen this in three groups back to back in a short period of time . There is an assumption when people come together that everyone is an equal in a social media group . This falls apart as soon as the immediate goals are met and the group finds other goals . It sickens me to see people who were once great friends threaten and belittle each other in public for no apparent good reason . This is the biggest reason I sign off from many groups as soon as I smell trouble . I have enough stress as it is – why would I ever want to get more trouble voluntarily 🙂
5. In any population I have seen in social media , 80% of content comes from 20% of people . That doesn’t worry me by itself – it’s normal . What does worry me is that a sense of hero worship for some part of that 20% kicks in too over time and it always seem to end up in a mess . People without the guts or inclination to say something sometimes choose to live vicariously through the “holier than thou” gang . This mindless support ( also funny that some of this is just sarcastic but gets interpreted as real support ) in turns strokes egos and a sense of invincibility apparently gets into the mind of some contributors . It’s all downhill from that point – apparently for me . There is no solution to this in a free world other than filtering out by people who find it unbearable .
6. The interface between virtual and real worlds is not anywhere close to seamless . If your boss or your mom is in the same group as you are, you are limited in many cases in expressing what you really think . And the same is true about actually acting on decisions taken in the virtual world . For example – a group of us once decided on FB that we can pool some money and help people affected by a natural disaster in Kerala . A kind soul in the group who lived in Kerala offered to be the guy on the ground disbursing cash to the needy. At the end , he did it on good faith and then got questioned endlessly by others in the group . He quit in disgust and is still upset and I feel terrible that he had to go through it . The ease with which social gets us through decisions gives a false sense of how things work in real world . Thankfully there are many examples of thoughtful people using social media in useful fashion – but the trouble they take should not be underestimated .
All things considered , I am still a big fan of social media . But I am also firmly convinced that it is less valuable than what I thought it once was . It adds enough value for me to stop using it , but I just need to filter way more aggressively and prioritize other things over social in many cases .