Social Media and the Cult of Personality

Participation in social media is about the community, not the cult of personality, the narcissism, the “look at me! I’m so great.” I think we all understand that, at least in our talk, if not in our actions. Yet, lately, I find myself bothered by the absolutely rampant self-promoters. I follow people on Twitter who tweet about almost nothing but themselves, their products, their accomplishments, their hotness.

Sure, you might argue, I could just unfollow them, unfriend them, block them, whatever. And I could. But I don’t, because I think they are really good people with a lot to offer who are just caught up in the shiny illusion that social media can create that everyone’s a celebrity. I have actually had people refer to me as a “local social media celebrity” and it makes me laugh and throw up a little in my mouth. I’ve seen friends, so caught up in the moment of their “celebrity” status, completely disregard other friends, because they are not in “the group”. Welcome to social media high school. I’d like to graduate and move on now, please.

Related to this, I was also recently taken off the speakers list at one national social marketing conference because I was not pimping – I mean, promoting – the conference aggressively enough. Well, sorry, but constantly promoting where I am speaking is not really my style, nor is it something that I believe my followers find of value. I think speakers should be chosen based on their substance and speaking, not their willingness to constantly self-promote.

Everyone of course is entitled to their own opinion, and I respect that. It’s just something on which I’ve recently become more clear than ever where I stand and what I personally value. We all, perhaps, fall into the trap at some point. It’s hard not to, when you’re posting on the fly with a hair trigger finger. Last week I retweeted something someone said about “the lovely Sue Spaight” and then immediately realized that was idiotic. But hopefully self-promoting is not an overall pattern.

On the flip side, you sometimes meet someone like @SusanKim4 who actually IS a personality, a local celebrity, but so genuine and focused on community that it restores your faith. And others who wear their popularity so well, so humbly, so genuinely. C’mon people. It’s just social media. It’s not all that. It’s not what’s real, and important, and lasting, like friendship and family and community and basic kindness. Let’s not get so caught up in our fine selves that we lose sight of the bigger picture.

Sue Spaight

3 thoughts on “Social Media and the Cult of Personality

  1. Ms. Spaight,

    You say “what’s real, and important, and lasting, like friendship and family and community and basic kindness.”

    Social media is a great place to ‘promote’ your current exploits to friends(both new and old), family and your community.

    If what you are doing inspires others, great. If not, who cares? The best thing is that social media gets you quick responses, whether they are critical or encouraging.

    There is nothing wrong with aggressively ‘branding’ yourself online, as long as you are doing things that are important to you. And, the more people who know what you are doing, the more feedback you get… and therefore — the greater opportunities for personal growth.

    I think you should try to look for the value in people’s posts… and if they aren’t saying anything important, then tell them.

    Keep the ‘social’ in social media.


    Gregory Alan Elliott

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