I think it is time to celebrate the nonsense in social media.
Just recently there have been a few posts flying around where people have been moaning about mess and noise and pointless twittering. See this rather curmudgeonly rant from Jerry Bowles and this from OmMalik and this from Steve Hodson.
I think they are missing the point. Social media is not an on-line version of the traditional media, where we seek to elevate and institutionalise the suppliers of ‘quality content’ and filter out the noise. Social media is about processes, not institutions. It is powered by nonsense, irrelevancy, the transient absurdity of individual conversations. Nonsense and the extremes of opinion provide its base, its strength, and its overall balance in the same way that our own piece of planetary lunacy, the moon, balances and stabilises the rotation of the earth. Well perhaps not actually, but the association between the Moon, lunacy and nonsense was to tempting to resist.
Nonsense nourishes the food-chain of social media. The mighty whale of Scobleizer (et al) could not exist without the plankton of nonsense. We forget this fact at out peril and if we neglect the importance of nonsense we will damage the ecosystem of social media.
Here’s why. The beauty of social media is its ability to turn nonsense into sense. And it is the process of connectivity that does this. A connected crowd of fools will tend to be wiser than an individual sage. To understand this, consider the contents of the head of, lets say @stephenfry, the best example of a twittering wit I can think of. Viewed in the old fashioned, institutional sense, the contents of his head is all nonsense – fragments of observation, scraps of analysis, flashes of experience. But we don’t assess Stephen Fry in the institutional sense by viewing in isolation the individual bits of information stacked on his mental shelves. It is the process of connectivity – his ability to connect his bits of mental nonsense and thus create intelligence – by which we judge him (and judge him quite highly by most reckonings).
Likewise with social media. As I never tire of saying – social media is a process not an institution and we need to understand it a such. Exclude the nonsense and we drain it of experience.
So lets celebrate nonsense, lets revel in the noise and the mess – it is a beautiful thing.
And on a personal level, I just like nonsense, always have.