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Who Am I Talking To?

by David Brock on May 18th, 2019

I suppose I’m being naive. I had always thought “social platforms,” were a way that we could connect and engage with each other. While they wouldn’t replace face to face and personal connections, they might expand our relationships. They would enable us to expand our relationships–though they wouldn’t be close, with people we might not otherwise meet.

For example, I might look at the connections I have in LinkedIn, being very interested in their content and news streams–learning more about them and learning from them.

But it turns out the majority of what I see, is probably not “them,” but some sort of surrogate.

Every day, we see news of “bots,” and concerted efforts from various governments and organizations, disrupting our favorite social platforms. Probably about 30% of the connection requests I get on LinkedIn, I know are not real people.

In fact years ago, I got a connection request from me. Someone had copied my profile and picture, and sent me a connection request—I would have hoped the person would have at least chosen a better picture.

I’m getting better at filtering through those. But then there are all the automated prospecting emails, the automated news feeds, the automated endorsement capabilities. All are usually pushed by LinkedIn or other experts as means of expanding our networks. It turns out most of these aren’t real–that is people aren’t really interested in me or some sort of relationship, they are just interested in themselves and their own goals (which is usually finding some way to separate me from my money, or to get my support.).

We are all busy people, we look at ways to improve our ability to use these networks, taking less time. I tend to post a lot of content on LinkedIn and Twitter. Yes, I’ve automated that through Buffer. As I read articles in the evening, those I think might be interesting to my community, I add to my Buffer queue. So little of what you see from me is actually posted by me at the moment you see the posting.

There are some who seem to be automating their comments. I’m not sure how they do that, but I don’t see value to that–other than driving activity levels up. Of course I don’t know why we might be interested in volume of activity level.

I see endless discussions of people trying to understand LinkedIn’s ever changing algorithms, to increase their visibility, views, likes, comments. I suppose I should pay attention to that, but I don’t have the time to–and I don’t seem to need the volumes that those people seem to seek.

And we see the continued race for more connections and the inevitable, “mine is bigger than yours,” arguments. People racing for 100’s of thousands of followers, yet we know through the work of Roger Dunbar and others, that we are cognitively limited to having roughly 150 close relationships.

And, if we can’t find the tools to automate what we do, we hire people to manage our social networks for us. Recently, I had experiences where several people did things that seemed uncharacteristic or very unusual. When I questioned them, they were embarrassed, “I’ve hired someone to manage most of what I do on my social networks.”

As I reflect on all of this, I wonder, “Who am I really talking to?”

There are all the derivatives of those questions, “what am I to believe, who am I to believe, maybe I am more interested in the surrogate than I am in the person that I thought I was engaging.”

Then one wonders, we think of relationships as so important, yet we are outsourcing and automating that we claim is important. We often do it in the spirit of being busy, yet efficient.

One begins to wonder, “what are our real relationships and who are we really engaging?” Too often, it seems not to be the people we had thought we are engaging.

I know I’m hopelessly naive, I’ll probably cling to that naivete. But I am learning, is there a bot or surrogate interesting in great discussions on sales, business, or leadership? Reach out, I’d be glad to talk and learn–at least until I find my own bot……

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