Sometimes, isn't Silence Golden?

Smartphones and social networks have changed our lives in so many ways. And in the process, many industries have had to reorient themselves to cater to this new normal. The PC, camera and the media industry have had to literally overhaul themselves ground up as the way users consume or use their services has changed. But i won’t bore you with yet another post about industries being disrupted……what really interests me is how consumer behavior has changed in this new environment. And it is evolving; fast and real time.

The most succinct way to describe it, is we have got more empowered. We have information on demand, we can capture moments whenever we want, ordering any product or services is almost always just a click away and our sphere of influence for our views has increased. In the process, our lives have become more public, and we are willing to trade our privacy for this celebrity status. The appeal in the social response to our moments and views has won our hearts and dopamine hits our mind craves. And we have the power…..the power that any statement (or post such as this) would be read by our friends or followers and in the process we would influence views.

Most of us are experimenting in virgin territory with regards our social network behaviour. Nearly all of us have spent under a decade on smartphones and social networks. And so, the messages we send or the photos we click everyday is just growing. Further, our behaviour is still very unregulated and the norms for acceptability are ever evolving. And maybe, this new world is designed for no fixed rules, but i believe as humans we would need to evolve to some “sense of order” in social network behaviour.

There are many absurdities that i observe (and have partaken in as well), but it does stand out for me, and i would presume for you too.

1) The Happy Birthday/Congratulations Barrage: We’ve all been part of the whatsapp group with fifty other friends where one is getting congratulated or wished and there is a constant stream of repetitions by everyone. It is an attendance mark, and i highly doubt if the receiver is reading or keeping track of it. Isn’t that going to die one day?

2) Wishing your spouse/family/loved one………on Facebook! Been there, done that…….really don’t know why….dont ask

3) Conversations on Facebook or Twitter. The steps go something like this

a. Photo on facebook. Announcement — “Look how cute my dog is!”

b. Reply from a friend. “Adorable. By the way, why did you leave early on Saturday night.”

c. Conversation begins…….for everyone to see

I am not passing judgment here. I just hypothesize that we will move to a world where behavior like this will die some day.

The biggest problem in this increasingly social and mobile world, is the associated “noise” is on the rise. Off the hundred posts/messages/tweets we read, we really want to receive/absorb ten of them. We all need and want filters now. I suppose technology could solve part of our problems (maybe a smarter feed algorithm?) but some of it has to come from within. Self restraint is extremely difficult in this overempowered overopinionated world today.

The most intelligent advice i received was from an extremely senior client of mine. He runs one of India’s largest and most successful companies which is growing exceptionally fast and business keeps pouring in. His most difficult yet most intelligent business decisions has been “figuring which business NOT to do” and learning when to say NO.

I’d like to draw a parallel here. In today’s world, i think our best social network decisions would be when we LEARN TO SHUT UP.

We are all learning…..

Social networks at the core of it are just media platforms. And cunningly intelligent people use these platforms beautifully to their advantage, and i struggle to think we get played as part of this process.

Two instances in particular stand out.

Shobha De’s rant about the Olympics. Most of us (myself included) fired back at her insensitivity and stupidity that day. As things calmed down, i couldn’t help but accept that she was the real genius. No one really remembers her (what does she really do anyway?) but for her schoolgirl crush write up on Raghuram Rajan and the Olympics tweet. Yet, she resurrected her brand recall by the social media reaction to it. What if we all had just shut up and not commented about it? She would be forgotten. Lets face it…..we all got played, and our hate reaction just helped her.

ISIS is the other one. They have built their brand on social media. And our reactions fuel the terror they spread and enhance their impact. Oddly, we help them more by hating on them than staying silent.

Our social media behaviour is evolving. And so are the networks. They are the most effective forms of media distribution today. Yet, the noise levels are escalating. Some of them are developing filters to solve this problem. But, some of it must come from within. We all must learn to develop the restraint to shut up to support our cause despite being empowered to speak about it.

Sometimes, isn't silence golden?