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Digital Wastelands

by David Brock on February 3rd, 2018

The digital/social landscape looks increasingly bleak.  Channel after channel is becoming a vast wasteland of garbage.  As Gerhard Gschwandtner suggests, the channels are increasingly being filled with Digital Graffiti.

Looking at the landscape broadly:

I get 100’s of emails a day, these are the “legitimate” emails.  I get added to every list, I’m OK with periodic emails, summaries, from many of the organizations, it’s an easy way to keep up, but somehow, they think there is new news and I should be interested in hearing from them every day, even though 90% of it is meaningless, and if they were leveraging their marketing automation tools appropriately, they would know me well enough to only send that which might be relevant.  But they are desperate to touch me, and it’s so much easier sending everything.

The phone, I still consider it part of the social landscape.  80% of the inbound calls I get are from companies leveraging power dialers, local presence.  I used to pick them up, wait patiently until the person calling me was ready to connect.  But not a single one has something that is interesting or relevant to me.  I wonder when those people having things I’m interested in will find me and call me.  I’m looking forward to those conversations.

Facebook–well I don’t use it as a channel, the few times a week, that I’m actually on Facebook, mostly to send someone Birthday greetings, I notice all the messages, I just ignore them.

Twitter used to be very good.  It was a quick, easy way to find new things, great content, share great content.  I’ve pretty much abandoned twitter.  When I go into it, I scroll, and scroll, and scroll, and scroll, and……..  I can’t find anything interesting.  Lot’s of quotes from Einstein, Gandhi, Steve Jobs, Mark Twain, lots of self promotion, not a whole lot of interesting content….. and I scroll, and scroll, and scroll.

People follow me, I look at their profiles, I look at their activity.  Most of them I’m clueless about why they are interested in me, but I suspect 90% of them are bots.  Every once in a while I try to purge them.

LinkedIn used to be great!  I participated actively in groups, but then LinkedIn seemed to diminish their importance, and too much was self promotional.  Then there was Pulse–but the cool kids don’t seem to hang out there anymore and except for Hank Barnes’ #FridayFails, there’s not a whole lot there.

My news feed used to be interesting.  Great content, really interesting discussions, I learned a lot.  But it’s going the way of twitter.  I look at my newsfeed, I scroll and scroll, and scroll, and scroll.  I prune my newsfeed by unfollowing as many self promoters as I can.  I unfollow people that don’t allow comments, they are using LinkedIn as a broadcast channel.  I unfollow those who are trying to convert LinkedIn to Facebook–wondering, why don’t they just use Facebook.

I scroll and scroll, and scroll.  It’s like a series of digital billboards or the soap operas conducted as monologues.  You know the formula for those:

  A single line with a provocative statement


–line feed–


Followed by another line to demonstrate your vulnerability


–line feed–


Followed by a bunch of lines describing the journey


–line feed–


Followed by another few lines with lessons learned.


–line feed–


Then the set up for the secret to success–but you are directed to the first two comments, I suppose to fool people into thinking it’s earth shattering, and there is some sort of discussion.


They all follow the same formula.  They try to appear profound, as though in their journey, they have discovered the secret to cold calls, indigestion, hemorrhoids, social media success, and world hunger.  They are rampantly narcissistic.

Perhaps if they were in iambic pentameter or followed the structure of haiku’s, I would find them more interesting.

And I scroll and scroll, and scroll….

I sometimes wonder if if reached the very last one, would it say “Burma Shave…..”  (You have to be a certain age to get that–look it up in Wikipedia)

I wonder where I’ll go to learn new things, to engage thoughtful people in interesting discussions.  Inevitably there will be new channels I can leverage, new discussion groups that will be good–at least until they, too become digital wastelands.

We wonder why it is more difficult to engage people, why people are overwhelmed/exhausted, why people are cynical.  It’s easy to understand, just go to any popular social media channel, they’ve become digital wastelands.

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  1. You write: “My news feed used to be interesting.”

    Yes. I think this is a common complaint about the LinkedIn recommender algorithm: it produces not very interesting items.

    However, I look at the LI feed as providing me with some water-cooler like information. And I don’t stay at the water-cooler for a long time.

    Also, it is very difficult to get to a decent conversation in which you learn something valuable from being at the water-cooler. So, I don’t expect to.

    But, LinkedIn does have two other features where you can find useful information. Significantly, above the water-cooler level.

    1. LinkedIn learning videos — all well done & useful acquiring new skills.

    2. LinkedIn Topic Directories — list of all the articles published — quality varies widely, though. URL is hidden from the UI interface, at this point.

    But accessible:

    Finally, above the water-cooler level, but below the learning videos, some company pages curate articles which can generates reasonable insights — along the line of: “Hey, I didn’t know that, thanks.”

    Hope this helps you get more out of LinkedIn.

    • Thanks Michael, I’m exploring some of those and carefully curating a list of people I follow. I suppose, we will have to constantly adapt what we do, based on others leveraging the channels to create Digital Graffiti.

  2. How do you curate members you want to follow on LinkedIn?

    (Be easier if you slap an RSS feed on member’s recent-activity.)

    • Michael: I follow/unfollow people (I can remain connected with them, but not follow them). I mute/unmute conversation streams. For example, if I’m mentioned in a conversation, I get notifications every time some one likes/comments on the conversation, even though I may not be participating. I mute many of those. Unfortunately, many people use mentioning someone’s name as a tactic to increase visibility of their posts.

  3. Don Mulhern permalink

    Great post Dave. So true. I don’t know whether this reality is depressing or liberating 😉

  4. David writes: “Unfortunately, many people use mentioning someone’s name as a tactic to increase visibility of their posts.”

    Yes, I agree.

    It is very hard to execute a good mentioning tactics in LinkedIn.

    We have tried for several years to come up with a strategy and tactics to implement. For the most part, we have failed.

    (As you say, some people will mention a load of people just to create attention to their thread — this is self-defeating because people ignore these mentions from these people.)

    We are starting some new tactics. Which focus on authors, people who have written a book & want more people to talk about the ideas in the book.

    I will send you some follow-up information by email — you being an author and all.

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