Are You A Networkist?

Map of Online Communities 2  by xkcd

Map of Online Communities 2 by xkcd

At a recent meeting of some social media masterminds, the conversation got around to a new network being designed by one of the members, and how it interfaced with other social networks. The speaker mentioned that they were interfacing with MySpace and that led to a series of jokes about guitar strumming and “is that still around” . The thought sprang into my mind ” Is that a networkist remark?”

That led me to wonder about network snobbery. Is our involvement in online communities creating new “class distinctions”? Are our reactions to others being formed by their participation in or lack of participation in social networking?

With 900 million members, it sometimes seems that everyone we meet is on Facebook, but do you react with some surprise or condescension when you meet someone who prefers not to be part of Facebook nation? Do people that concentrate their social engagement on LinkedIn feel superior because they are productivity related? Do we see Twitter users as flighty or find them too crass and commercial because they are constantly pimping links to their content or product? Google+ users see themselves as more cutting edge than there brethren on Facebook, but do Facebook users see them as disconnected Uber-Geeks?

Will all of this lead to network wars? Armies invading virtual space and spreading their social propaganda and vision of the future? Or on a more serious note, has social media become so integral to our society that we have started to measure others by the networks they join?

It may seem silly, or a flight of fancy, but as our online involvement leads us from network to network, and from community to community, its hard not to generate preconceptions of the people in these communities. Its merely an extension of the thinking that led to the creation of sites like Klout and Kred, where algorithms are purported to tells us who people are, what influence they wield, and who they influence. In other words, these sites look at the online activities of individuals, and from the where, and what or their participation, claim to have some insight into who they are, what they know, and who they influence.

On a personal level, we perform these mental gymnastics without the benefit of mathematics or hard data, to come to the pre-judgement we might unconsciously make when we see the results of a Google search, indicating where and how our subject interacts online. Little or no information online? No social network involvement? We judge the subject to be less relevant than they might be, or less important that they should be. Lots of friends and fans and followers? Tons of online interaction? Before we even investigate the specifics of their interaction, we begin to have form a “model of a modern major general” (If my Gilbert & Sullivan reference is too obscure for you , click here!)

But prejudgement, of almost any kind, is not good. It may lead us to over or under estimate the potential contribution an individual might make to our cause, be it business, personal or philanthropic. In variably pre-judgement leads to mis-jdgement, and we might find ourselves following the banner of an “evangelist” without portfolio, whose rhetoric outpaces their knowledge. Or fail to follow the next great idea, because it comes from a surprising source.

Mom always said “You will be judged by the company you keep” and Mom was always right wasn’t she?

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