Selfless Social Media in a Selfish World

How often do you use social media to solicit information from others instead of spreading information about yourself?

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I’m not talking about commerce or product advice, either. I’m talking about real, personable information, like the types of movies they watch, what they do with their free time on the weekends, and hobbies they’re passionate about, things you might bring up in one-on-one conversation.

It’s so easy and effortless for us to resort to social media to talk about no one but ourselves. It’s a knee-jerk reaction that, according to BBC, makes us “try to look good”; today, whenever we have something we think is interesting to share, we immediately share it on social media and wait to see what the reactions of our followers will be, like villains writhing our hands together in anticipation of our master plan’s outcome.

But how often do we resort to social media to figure out the opinions and perspectives of others that may even contradict our own? Gasp! In his book Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business, Erik Qualman writes on how CNN anchor Rick Sanchez understood that engaging your audience in a selfless way helps to make them believe their specific attention is being sought after to reach a mutually beneficial conclusion.

“From there,” writes Qualman, “[Sanchez] started to leverage the Twitter platform to ask thought-provoking questions like: ‘I’m interviewing Colin Powell tonight. What would you like to know most about Iraq or Iran?’” In doing this, Sanchez makes his viewers believe they’re “helping to produce the show” (Qualman, 2013, p. 117). Actively turning to his audience for assistance makes Sanchez a more appealing host to those who follow him.

Yet, it’s important to refrain from confusing an intellectual and involved conversation with an illusive spread of engaging ideas. The Federalist writes that social sharing “is often not actually about sharing information. It’s about the sharer letting everyone know that they are knowledgeable or right-thinking or caring.” Knowing the difference is key to proper audience engagement; asking your Twitter followers for show ideas is different than presenting a couple of ideas to those same followers and asking them to vote on which one they’d like to see become reality.

Everybody wants their fifteen seconds of fame. But just how many times do we ask for those same fifteen seconds?