After several years, I'm suddenly working for a for-profit. Not just a for-profit, but one that exists in the realm of "Social Media". I still don't know how I feel about that.
Generally, my eyes glaze over and my brain tunes out when I hear the phrase. When someone says "I work in social media," I hear "I study the hype that's left over once you've stripped an idea of its honesty and creativity."
Then I think of what happens when this field is legitimized. We end up trading and exchanging hype about goods instead of the goods themselves. Taken to the exteme, you get markets that crash because of a tweet. This is nothing new; the stock market has always been subject to rumors and speculation.
Only now, we capture every microscopic inclination anyone has; every granular move towards or away from liking or disliking a product becomes a ripple that's amplified and magnified to something beyond what the original person could have ever intended.
On some level, it deeply disturbs me that social value is being created by this process. On the other hand, it deeply fascinates me.
I've seen so many projects, products and services that were genuinely amazing. The problem is, no one else knew about them. I have a laptop that's 14 years old and accepts pressure-sensitive input on its LCD surface and has a pixel density that makes it look like actual paper. Apple came up with the same technology a decade later, without the pressure-sensitivity, called it an iPad Retina, and made a fortune.
Inferior technology, inferior imagined applications, but superior hype. When done right, social media and marketing campaigns take something second-rate and make it cutting-edge.
And I wonder if this can't be used for good. I want to believe it's possible.