Monday, December 7, 2009

Why It Isn't Enough To Be Digitally Cool

I started using facebook in September 2004, the day my college was added to the network. Our print directory was actually called "Facebook", however by the time I graduated college in 2008 - the hard copy facebook was all but obsolete.

When I talk about social media, I find myself often talking about facebook because it is what I know and what I remember. It is social media that I literally "grew up" using. I can't count the number of events that I have helped organize that used facebook as the primary source of information and advertisement.

As I write this I have 1,220 friends, 460 fans of myself (most of them not my friends), and 808 fans of the blog I founded - Art Star.

If I ask my facebook network a question via a status update - I almost always get an answer, heck at this point the majority of my status updates are liked or commented upon.

In many ways, I could be considered "cool" on facebook.

Yet, I am routinely bothered about how social media is sometimes portrayed as "be all, end all" of advertising, business, connections, etc.

I think just as social media can be a great tool - it can also be a trap, tricking the uninitiated to engage in a pursuit of quantity over a pursuit of quality.

A couple years ago I overheard my little brother talking to one of his friends about someone on Myspace who was friends with lots of attractive girls. "Yeah, he (the guy) is Myspace cool, but he ain't pullin in real life."

And that is the trap - to try to become digitally cool at the expense of becoming cool in real life.

My network was just as great at 250 friends, as it was at 600 friends, as it was at 250 friends again (I got upset at social media and purged), as it is now at over 1200 friends. The key reason is that I actually know about 1100 of my 1200 friends.

Very few of my friends, less than 50, are people I haven't met and interacted with in real life.

The reason social networking works for me is because I try to be "cool" in the real world, and constantly meet new people, have meaningful conversations, and do meaningful things.

This relates to my motto, "You Can't Fake Real", in the sense that how effective your social media network is will always be limited by how cool you are in real life.

If you are lame in real life, you will be lame in the social media world. If you are a follower in real life, you will be follower in digital life. We recreate the real world in this digital world. In my other blog Art Star, I've written about the artist Cao Fei's documentary of Second Life - and one of the most interesting things about the video is seeing how people created things in this digital world that echoed the real world including pollution and even graveyards.

I think that by embracing the idea that our "real world self" acts as a limit on the potential of our "digital self" we are given the framework to constantly improve both.

When we find that our fans are stagnating or our blog hits are going down - perhaps the answer isn't to write a top 50 list that is search word optimized.

Perhaps what we really need to do is go out and meet some real people, have some interesting conversations, experience some music or art, have a few drinks with our friends, and generate some new ideas.

If we focus on doing these things, it will be amazing how much "cooler" our digital self will become as we network and continue to engage with the relationships and ideas that were started in real life.