The Tomato And To-Mah-Toe Of Social Networking

These are double-trouble, serious times. But at some point, the pressure must release, and any old device will do.

It was a week that felt like a dog pile of not-so-Hallmark moments: the media contortions around Obama's 100 Days; the real stats on the economy; the real deal on torture with a capital T; our inflated consciousness of the swine flu; and the death of everyone from Bea Arthur to Jack Kemp. I needed some levity, so I enjoyed my moment of timely spiritual alignment with Jon Stewart. On one "Daily Show" late in the week, Stewart reflected on the weekend prior, when he'd "cut himself some new jeans shorts" and gone running in the sunshine with a feeling of hopeful turnaround -- only to be duped by the torrential week to come. The visual alone soothed all ills.

In my own heady week of launching a business for a client on a shoestring, researching or programming a confluence of digital media events and panels, planning a potentially dubious trip to Mexico -- I took the cue to lighten up. When the weekend hit, I jumped off the grid, ate roughly a slice of pizza per night, and went to see "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past."



Upon resurfacing Sunday, I have decided to keep on my own mental jeans shorts a bit longer and focus on light matters only. So I thought I'd check in on my social media experiment in progress -- that is, my reentry into the Twitterverse, which I mentioned a few months ago.

You may recall I had bowed out of Twitter Life a year ago, but not because I didn't buy its marketing value. The existing application did not have reasonable controls for me.

In those early days, I was agitated by the convergence of my Tweighborhoods and just not into it, no matter how much I respected the larger arena as a marketing communications device. When I reentered, I did so with a narrower scope, a few parameters and a commitment to finding the right tools to facilitate my experiment. Result: I've been having a blast. So, with a light heart, and decked out in jeans shorts, I share these cultural observations on the Twitterverse, some more trivial than others.

Five Behaviors I Find Curious and Potentially Ridiculous
1. A constant focus in mixed company on promoting one's own works. I'm not talking about promoting products, media programming or events, but literally showering kudos on oneself, maybe even in the third person, for industry articles written and self-ascribed brilliance. Seems to me, that if one roams in a skillfully cultivated Twitter-sphere, the sparks happen organically, without such direct self-reference.

2. Continual reference to the number of followers striving for or achieved. This exuberant tallying of where one stands feels akin to musing aloud about one's own real estate dealings or compensation. In a word: gauche.

3. The righteous belief that a refollow is an obligation, not a natural, discriminating reaction based on a shared circle, interest or valid and desired connection.

4. Limiting your tweets to barking announcements of where you are, 24/7. These tracker missives are especially bizarre when they are one's only Twitter activity and never include any details on a gathering. When the stream stacks up too thick, I can't help but picture this Tweep sitting in said wine bar, velvet-roped lounge or artisan cheese den, all alone and watching the door.

5. Public fighting in the Twitterverse between pseudo-celebs. Unsure if you have witnessed this, but it's great fun. Typically, this Twama breaks out around conflict on #1-3 above -- as loyalists call each other out on various points of ego or disrespect.

Five of My Own Behaviors Others Might Find Curious and/or Ridiculous
1. Staying beneath the radar (to quote one of my favorite Tweeps), primarily by not prescribing to #1-3 above. I'm not that hard to find. And, don't be fooled by the glasses in the photo.

2. I don't unleash the tweet at every turn. At least for now, I keep my focus mainly on several streams of interest: research and programming around digital media events; my own news and media consumption; slow food, a big involvement of mine; observations while out and about in New York. I like to see what sparks from these paths, so I can figure out where I want to go next.

3. I refollow based on intersection with people on the above streams or prompted interest in new territory. A refollow is not a given and may take me a few days. I'm motivated by deepening streams of learning -- not just building the base.

4. I rarely tweet my location. Reasons for this should be obvious. In short, I don't like to watch the door.

5. The interplay between my environments and channels is not continual. Sometimes I integrate, especially when I am marketing something or someone. But, I'm not firmly focused on an always-on integrated push. However, a friend recently turned me on to Pixelpipe, which will likely consume a few late nights of experimentation in the next week or so -- as this allows one to synchronize messaging, photo sharing and updates in a fairly intricate way.

Our social-media-socialized culture shows us daily how we differ -- part of the hilarity that keeps us from taking it all too seriously. My friend I'll call Yogi and I recently had a big laugh, when, following a shared, unfortunate social interaction with someone -- a joint foot-in-mouth moment -- we were both immediately friended by that person the next morning. I exercised an out and relocated the contact to a pure business sphere for me -- Linkedin.

I asked Yogi about this over lunch, assuming he had done something similar. He said, "Oh, no, I friended her. I tend to friend everyone. Thus, the 1,587 friends." I relish this tomato/to-mah-toe reality. As in life, one man's comfort is another's no-fly zone.

8 comments about "The Tomato And To-Mah-Toe Of Social Networking".
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  1. Jonathan Bailey from Bailey Gardiner, May 4, 2009 at 12:47 p.m.

    Jeez, Kendall you are reading my mind. Thank you for expressing the frustration a lot of us feel in trying to navigate through the inane tweets to find the real value. There is a great deal of positive information in the twittersphere -- just sometimes hard to wade through all the crap to find it. You are right - it is a sifting process. And I am still learning.

  2. Victoria winters, May 4, 2009 at 12:56 p.m.

    Exactly! Quantity seems to be too much of a focus on Twitter. People need to limit their Tweets to USEFUL information and not a play by play of their every move. I'm on their to learn from others not get spammed with useless information.

  3. Rick Lavoie from RUCKUS, May 4, 2009 at 1:05 p.m.

    Thanks, Kendall for sharing your insights and candor. I agree and have been noticing how Twitter has become full of ego and a way of announcing your latest accomplishments with a significant amount of name dropping of who and where you just interviewed. Twitter will evolve into something more soon that will add more value. Even though it has hit Critical Mass, there is still a significant population, aka, our consumers who wouldn't touch it just yet as it does not hold enough value beyond the marketing insiders.

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, May 4, 2009 at 1:20 p.m.

    I do have some memory when I was of the twit age. One of the best things I could do was escape to where no one knew where I was or what I was doing. Sitting on a park bench counts; it didn't have to be exotic. Now, I still don't want to stand on your ankles. As Seinfeld show called "a close talker'. You need some space to breathe and so do I. And I am very easy to find. If it is that important, you will find me. If what you have to say is that important you'll find the person/people to say it to, like here. Kendall, if someone you knows you not even very well personally, knows you write your opinions here and can join in this audience. You can be found in other venues, too. Touche for other people. There are forums for forums. Just my few words.

  5. Lisbeth Kramer from Identities, May 4, 2009 at 2:32 p.m.

    Truth be said, what I appreciate about your thoughts here is that they validate me; that is not ego that is as many will admit, being is normal to want to feel "normal." Your voice here allows some security in that for honestly, you directly hit my chords of TWITTER
    with your personal "behaviors." Who cares how many are following you? Where did all these self proclamed "gurus" arrive from?
    I follow for learning, for inspiration for sharing of thoughts. To discover interesting minds and talents is something that ignites my DNA always, however I feel there is not enough opportunity to engage further with those that inspire...I feel there is a loss of integrity in this platform on many levels. But what balances that out is the opening to a universe of so many interesting minds out there........for me this is another addition to a tool box for learning.

  6. James Hering from The Richards Group, May 4, 2009 at 4:44 p.m.

    Kendall - you so struck a nerve... why do I feel like "tweet this, tweet that" is akin to becoming a digital lemming? Sure, they don't really commit "mass suicide" but there are far too many people who jump in feet first not knowing what they are doing or why... other than I hear way too many school yard expressions. The challenge is separating the tweat from the chaff... sorry, I had to add to the Twitter bad pun list...

  7. Ken Ripley, May 5, 2009 at 8:31 a.m.


    Please don't feel that "Brilliant" has been watered down based on the 11,347 social media experts who refer to themselves as brilliant.

  8. Mike Scheiner from Scheiner Inc, May 5, 2009 at 6:01 p.m.

    Kendall, Great commentary. It seems more and more others are coming up with the same observations and ways of defining or segmenting Twitter users.

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