Social media: its not a clamour for attention

The ever controversial Andrew Keen has just published this in his Telegraph column – a guide to winning in social media.   As with much of what Andrew says its true – the five steps he recommends would help gain attention.  However, the assumptions that lie behind it render it (and also much of what Andrew says) misplaced shall we say.

The incorrect assumption in this instance is that social media is a struggle for attention.  No doubt there are some who use it this way (Andrew himself for example), but the belief that the sole and primary motivation for participation is social media is a desire to win, or get noticed, or triumph in the attention economy, is wrong.

This is a very old-fashioned view, based on the fact that in the traditional media world attention was everything because attention meant advertising revenue or book or record sales.  It is also a very convenient view amongst those in what we might call the information elite because, as with the label citizen journalist, it provides them with a stick with which to beat social media in their battle to retain the sanctity of publication.

Andrew gets his money from book sales, writing columns and speaking gigs – all things that require he generate attention for himself.   However, people like Andrew represent a tiny fraction of the population as a whole.  For the rest of us  attention is not a valuable currency.  We use social media instead to talk to each other, to discover information (frequently the type of information too specific to ever find a visible place within ‘the attention economy’), and to access forms of collective, collaborative and communal influence previously unavailable to us.  This is actually what social media is about and the attention seekers of the world had better wake up to this because the more time us ordinary folk spend doing this, the less time (and need) we will have to pay attention to them.

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