Sunday, January 2, 2011

Social Media Robots Lie

The social media is supposed to be about communicating with friends, but so far that is not the way it works for me. More than ten thousand visits to my free Google site in its nearly completed first year, and not a single response from readers. I think most of them have met me, and that it is probably about a hundred people visiting a hundred times, once every three days (the rate I am writing).

Yesterday I found a message on my rarely used Facebook account from a Pomona College graduate. He was announcing to fellow alumni the publication of his and wife's new book on how to use the social media to do good and make money at the same time. The authors are business professionals, one a marketing consultant, the other a professor of business at Stanford University.

I went to Amazon, read a couple dozen pages, and learned a few things. The avalanche effect, where visiters bring new visiters in ever increasing numbers, happens when what they find allows them to do something, or think about doing something, that makes them feel good, and they feel good about passing on the message. It works best with people they know, because having happy people in their lives makes them happier themselves. And people spend money on what they think makes them happy.

I don't know what I can do with this information, since I am not communicating with friends, only strangers at best met once in a public place.

And now I notice that the largest group of readers can't possibly know me at all: they are from South Korea. Five hundred visits this month, just under that in the months before.

I have heard about this country's huge number of college graduates, high technology infrastructure, economic prosperity. But what do they want with me and my stories of a cheating family, a wild wife, and my playing prophet?

The former head of the foreign office of the EU and NATO chief gave a talk here in Budapest recently in which he drew attention to the fact that in the next few years the total productivity of the Asian world is going to be greater than the West's, for the first time in centuries. Not per person, real total productivity. He located the cause of what he called the West's loss of economic power in our materialism, money worship, entertainment culture, and general failure of education. If we wanted to recover our superiority in productivity we would have to correct this. He did not say that we might want to do this for its own sake. We would just have to be better people if we want to go on being rich. Be good, as it were, against our will.

Honest people don't ask to be paid to live a better life. And it is really no surprise that deception is routine in the social media. Facebook warns that you have a security risk when they really want you to give them password recovery questions and answers. Twitter apologises, says they have done something wrong, when the truth is it is you that has done something wrong, broken their rules regarding repeating the same message.

I myself take this very hard, because in the social media the only responses I get are these lies from a computer!

What then do well educated, rich, high technology South Koreans want from me? Why do they visit my site, which though it may be a disaster is miles away from being a happiness avalanche? I can flatter myself that it is because they are more honest and appreciate my honesty, unlike my fellow Americans.

Then again, I have also just read that in the West there is pervasive gloom and fear of the future, but in Asia great confidence and hope. Hopeful confident people still know how to read something not easily consumed, not explicitly friendly and entertaining or not immediately useful for making money. They still can read because they are looking for what might improve their lives further. Make them good.