Posted by b0bryan
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).
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