A Relationship?

I’m not sure that the word “relationship” means what it used to mean.  If I’m interpreting things correctly, young people shun traditional romantic relationships–they just “hook-up”.  However, according to Qualman, “Consumers today, in particular Millennials, and Generation Zers don’t want to be shouted at, they’d rather have conversations and steady ongoing relationships with companies” (p. 141).  So, we don’t want to have relationships with people, but we do want to have a relationship with our muffler shop?

I have a couple problems with this. First, when in the entire history of humanity have people preferred to be shouted at.  Just because social media offers an alternative to traditional in-your-face advertising doesn’t mean it wasn’t always obnoxious.  Second,  do people really want ongoing relationships with the companies that make the products they use?  I don’t want to treat companies as if they were friends: It demeans the whole concept of friendship.  When I contact a company it is either because it is broken or because I can’t figure something out.  I want to locate the information I need (wherever that is) and get on with my life.

Qualman does a very good job of explaining the technological possibilities of social media, but I think that Sherry Turkle does a much better job of evaluating the moral implications in her book Alone Together.  For example, I like the examples Qualman provides about the Fantasy Football Today podcast.  The producers of the podcast integrated advertising into the content rather than just using a plain commercial.  And they also used the “Tom Sawyer Approach” to leverage their audiences’ desire to participate to provide them with free content (p. 143).   He also makes a very good point when he says that, “Users generally want to be communicated with through the medium in which you met to begin with” (p. 172).

I don’t expect him to explore the moral issues around the move to social media (it isn’t the point of his book), but he never hints at the potentially negative aspects and consistently argues for the benefits.  Yes, there are some really cool possibilities with these new media, but there are limitations and trade-offs with every media and I think it hurts his credibility a little bit when he fails to mention them. Qualman even makes this point when he says, “By pointing out your flaws, people will give more credence when you point out your strengths” (p. 138).

Posted on October 21, 2012, in Literacy, Social Media, Society, Trust. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Bob,

    Thanks for questioning the morality of some of the content that Qualman speaks with such enthusiasm about. I know it’s his job to teach companies how to market their products and make a profit. I know it’s his job to teach us how to continuously expand our audience, but the audience I’m part of doesn’t want to be constantly bombarded with advertising–obvious or subtle. Along with tiring of the advertising, the audience I’m part of is not fond of what constant consumerism is doing to our society and our environment. Spreading good information is one thing, but what else is spreading as a result of the practices described in Socialnomics?

  2. So you don’t want to have a relationship with your muffler shop, he? Are you sure? Made me smile.
    No, but seriously. I know what you want to say with this. It seems wrong that that generation ‘doesn’t have time’ for relationships with significant others, but they want to spend time with somebody not THAT important. It not only seems wrong, I think it IS wrong. Because that’s the best way to spend your time: to socialize in a real world, to build character.
    However, I can totally understand that they want to build some sort of trust with a company. I did the same in real life. I want to be able to trust the people who are taking care of the brakes of my car. I go check the shop out, I talk to the mechanics. And if that’s all good, I’ll be the most loyal customer you can ask for. The new kids on the block just use a different tool to figure this out, they use Twitter. That’s progress.

  3. Qualman’s book would definitely benefit from addressing some of the possible negative impacts of social media. Every chapter presents this dream like scenario of how good social media is, but each chapter fails to mention the possible negative effects of living life connected to social media. His arguments are strictly one-sided, and never address any other viewpoints. It is fascinating the two different views of technology that this class emphasizes–Turkle’s moral dilemma and Qualman’s benefits only view.

  4. Bob, I really appreciate your comments here on Qualman’s failure to address the negatives of social media… or even simply admit it isn’t all going to be rosey! While the book is eye-opening, I do think it would best “sell” me if it gave a more balanced review of social media: Just as you point out, by noting his last quote. Great post!

  5. This is a very well composed post in how you introduce the “relationship” idea. Many of the things I “like” on FB I usually end up “hiding” from my newsfeed or “unliking,” either because of my interests changing or frequency of posts.

    I too am in agreement with your peers. Failing to mention some of the negatives does make the text less well-rounded, but at least we have Turkle as well as our own experience [not to mention curiosity to seek out alternate examples] when it comes to invasive technologies! Also, I wonder if its publication date may have something to do with the “dream like scenarios” Paul mentioned in his comment. The more familiar we all become with social media, the more we question it.

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