Social Networking: Reality TV on the Web

Just a bit of something to think about to take you into your weekend.

What is it about social networking that is just so darn appealing? First it was www.craigslist.org, www.MySpace.com, then www.Facebook.com, www.LinkedIn.com, www.BlogHer.com, www.Eons.com, Google and Yahoo groups, Blogger, and WordPress and Typepad… and almost overnight the concept of social networking and the organic nature of the internet outreach (you’ve heard of Web 2.0…that’s what that is all about)is everywhere one googles. (Yes, “Google”, “to Google”, “I’ve been Googled”, “Have you googled yourself?”…all now part of the new lexicon.)

People LOVE to peek into other people’s lives. They like to support the good and they also like to nose into the bad. That is why reality TV has become so popular — because we are being allowed to be the nosy neighbor. Social networking takes it all a step further — by giving us permission to comment on, give advice about, opine, lecture, parent, and commiserate freely online. Anything that gets posted on an opinion board, in a social group, in a blog (like mine!) is free and open territory for anyone to chime in on.

I’ll give you my opinion, however. Social networking will go the way of reality TV. We are now officially inundated with groups and far from just becoming “granular” or organic, we are now niching ourselves into oblivion. Looking for a social network on diapering techniques in Sweden? I’m sure there is a chatroom or social network somewhere with 27 members who all agree that a triangle fold is the way to go. As we continue to dilute even further, just like the “scripted” reality show, authenticity gets lost. What will remain? Certainly My Space, YouTube, Facebook — those sites that are not only authentic, but evolve out of the group momentum. Just like American Idol will probably still be around a few more years.

But this is just the beginning. We are only scratching the surface of the power of this type of reach. Web 2.0 is the great, great equalizer. If you like my content, you’ll read it. It won’t matter if I’m 20 or 50 or 70. Doesn’t matter if I’m tall, short, fat, slim, or whether I’m a solo operator, have 10 employees or 1000…my external trappings mean nothing on the net.

Since the creation of the internet only one thing has remained a constant — delivery of free, valid, authentic information. Content Rules became the mantra of Web 2.0 for a reason — authentic information was key. A social network that lacks authenticity won’t survive, just as the scripted reality show won’t survive over the long term.

So what is the next evolution?

What will the next stepping stone be on the net? Will it be the Gen Plusser finding alternative ways to create online business? Will it be large corporations enhancing their customer service (like Vonage is already doing using the Philippines as a very friendly and responsive workforce) and reaching out via the internet, one by one, to each individual consumer? What do you think? Where are we going?

2 thoughts on “Social Networking: Reality TV on the Web

  1. Great post, Wendy!

    As is the case with the rise of personal branding, I think social networking is a reflection of “egonomics,” a trend identified by Faith Popcorn. Simply put, egonomics is all about being recognized and acknowledged for who we are.

    Sure, at a superficial level, social networking can be “all about me.” Yet, to make meaningful connections requires being relevant for others – and that takes sensitivity to their wants and needs. With that in mind, social networking can be a powerful tool for facilitating what great networkers do in the “real-time” world: engage in a relationship building process of giving and receiving that benefits everyone involved.

    While I can’t even imagine Web 3.0, I do believe that as long as people need each other, online networking will have a place.

  2. Walter, I agree. Online networking will evolve and as you point out, it is the venues that stay true to an authentic giving and sharing that will certainly flourish as we move to Web 3.0 and beyond!

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