A few weeks ago, a woman swallowed a bottle of pills in an attempt to commit suicide. (see: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/01/06/facebook-friends-mock-womans-suicide-message/)
Fortunately for her, she was not alone. She had 1,000+ Facebook friends, and upon learning that she had ingested a fatal dose of medication, these friends sprang into action. As the woman’s final minutes approached, her “friends” sat behind their keyboards and ridiculed her until she slipped away into unconsciousness, never to return.
So … how many social media friends do you have?
If you died tomorrow, how many of them would attend your funeral? If you got in a car accident, how many of your Twitter followers would show up at the emergency room?
If you’re like me, the answer to all of the above is: not many. I doubt a single one of my social media friends or followers would shed a tear were I to leap out of my window right now.
The world is becoming an increasingly superficial place, and in my opinion, nothing is accelerating this trend more than social media. Social media is taking terms that used to be reserved for the select few, and is applying them to anyone and everyone that seeks the label on even the most cursory level.
It’s not just “friendship”, however.
Advertisers, marketers, and PR firms are now being victimized, bamboozled, and hoodwinked by the very same social media companies that have given us all of our ‘fans’ and ‘friends’.
Let me give you an example:
Last year, I was covering an event in Las Vegas. As the event was happening, I decided to send a few live pictures from my cellphone to Twitter.
While there, I recognized another “Internet personality” (for lack of a better term) covering the event with me. Unlike me, however, this person was very heavily into social media … in particular Twitter.
How heavily into it?
At the time, the person was following around 15,000 people, and in return, about 20,000 people were following this person back. Twenty thousand is a lot of people reading your messages in real-time. It is so many readers that, this person was actually getting paid by PR firms to tweet live from the event. It’s good work if you can get it.
I, on the other hand, was at the opposite end of the spectrum. At the time of this little hoedown, I had maybe 300 followers, if that. At one point, I remember that I actually put my phone away and stopped taking shots. I figured it was completely pointless. If you have 300 followers, and you are broadcasting Twitpics beside someone with 20,000 followers, clearly your efforts will be completely overshadowed. After all, the numbers don’t lie. 300 vs. 20,000 would be like airing a commercial on the WB during Fox’s live broadcast of the Super Bowl.
At least this is what I thought at the time.
The next morning, about 12 hours after the event, I decided to log on to Twitpic in order to delete the shots I had sent up. When I got to the first photo, I noticed that it had over 700 views, more than twice the number of official followers that I had. I paged through the half dozen or so shots I had sent up, and they all had views of somewhere between 500-1,000 over a twelve hour period of time.
Cool. It seemed that my efforts were not completely in vain.
Still, I figured, this was only a pittance. If I got seven hundred views, imagine what 20,000 follower guy had.
Out of morbid curiosity (and a penchant for self-flagellation) I surfed over to Social Media Superstar’s (SMS) Twitpic account to see what kind of numbers he had put up. In my own head, I was estimating somewhere between fifty thousand to a hundred thousand views.
With that in mind, imagine my own shock when I arrived at his first picture and found that it had received only 200(ish) views.
Two hundred views?
How was this possible?
This person had 50 times more followers than I had, but more people actually viewed what I sent up. Surely, there must have been an error.
As I paged through the SMS photos, I found that all of the views were under 300.
It made no sense. None at all.
Fortunately, I had a “real” friend that was heavily into the big twit, and I asked him if he could explain my findings. He could. He explained that if I too want big follower numbers, I could have them in only 5 easy steps, and those steps are as follows:
1) Follow a ton of people
2) Most of them will follow you back (apparently this is considered “polite”)
3) If they don’t follow you back, unfollow them
4) If they do follow you back, unfollow 50% of them
5) Start all over
Within only a couple of months, it should be simple for anyone to have thousands of followers … even if you do nothing. Even if you are a grapefruit. There are even paid applications that you can buy which take care of steps 1-5 for you.
For the most part, social media numbers are the art of the con.
Think about it, how could you even legitimately follow 1,000 people on Twitter?
I follow 4, and even I get annoyed sometimes that my phone is overwhelmed with messages. Sometimes important things that I want to read get knocked off my screen before I even see them. How on earth can people legitimately pay attention to 500 different tweeters?
The answer is, they can’t, and they don’t. 99.999% of what happens on social media is noise.
If you think about it, it’s all so sad.
There are people out there, right now, who have 1,000 followers on some social media site … yet do not have a real friend in the world. These very same people are often obsessed with increasing these fake fan/follower numbers.
Because in a purely superficial world, the illusion of followers, the illusion of fans, and the illusion of friends is all that matters.
In a superficial world, those same fans, followers, and friends will sit, watch, and say nothing while you die.
Simone Back found this out the hard way.