People Aren’t Corporations

I found myself reading an article by L. Aruna Dhir here on BizCatalyst 360° where she asked if Social Media was Empowering Or Overpowering? I started to comment, but I had too much to say and in some ways, not all of it was totally connected to the main thrust of the article. And so this article was born.

First, let me just answer the question. No, it isn’t empowering. No, it isn’t overpowering.  And yes – the question is not a binary choice. Let me circle back to that later.

If you pay any attention to my writing here, over in the ☕️ NGAGE CAFÉ or on the People First site, my newsletter and a few other places besides, you will know that I have been building an argument that ‘we the people’ have been so swamped by corporate narrative, vocabulary, opinion and what they laughingly describe as ‘calls to action’ that we seem to have not only lost our voice but maybe even forgotten that we have one. I am old enough to remember the early days of the Internet when even **discussion** of commerce was frowned on much less actually experiencing ‘commerce’. And then it shifted. The sheer weight (I refuse to call it ‘muscle’) of the corporates powered themselves into the space. The rest is history.

And then the web started gaining traction. Commerce? No no no. This is a place for people to gather and share ideas in a neutral zone – where every voice is heard. Aaah yes. Halcyon days – before the sheer weight of the corporates powered themselves into our space. The rest is history.

Social Networking is what we originally called it. It became Social Media when the corporates once more pushed their way in. Media – because of course, a corporate can’t just have a conversation – they have something to say – and they use ’media’ to do that …. it got so bad that 5 years ago HBR no less published ‘Marketers Need to Think More Like Publishers’.

But then having made that shift, it turned out that they didn’t know what to say? Because?

Because suddenly these vast hierarchical organizations had to talk to people on a 1–1 basis … and guess what. They didn’t know how to. They still don’t know how. Lots of attempts at getting it right .. but largely one giant #FAIL

About 15 years ago a colleague developed a model that attempted to explain the business transition that was occurring. It was deep. Gnarly. Complicated. People had a hard time getting their head around it … so with his permission, I took up the mantle of interpreter in an attempt to explain to a wider audience what was going on, using more accessible terms. The result described nothing less than a seismic shift in business that was transitioning Producer Efficient Supply Chains to Customer Effective Demand Networks. Catchy right?

But the message was clear. Each one of those 4 words in the first phrase described the past, the status quo of business. And each of the 4 words in the second phrase exactly mirrored their historical partner and drew a clear picture of the future. 15 years later corporates still don’t get it. I will dig out the material and publish it on BizCatalyst – I know this audience will understand!

So just as the Internet has gone the way of the dodo, at least in terms of its original intentions, so too has the web and so too social. We are still being driven by old thinking, old values, old power. But that’s the corporate story. Why are ‘we the people’ still being driven by the corporate agenda?

People, on the whole, don’t want to / need to engage with hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, millions of people. They just don’t. They want/need to engage with their family, friends, and people that have similar interests. Engaging with hundreds of thousands … that’s what Corporate’s want to do. Why do we/they assume we need to do the same?

Once again, corporates have moved us into unnatural acts … and they are enabled by a cadre of snake oil salesmen. if you are ‘only’ connected to 30 people on LinkedIn … your Twitter follower count is in the tens … then there are plenty of people, self-professed gurus, coaches, and social mavens ready to show you how to get thousands of followers? But why?

What is this need to be ‘connected’ with that many people … if only I could put those quote marks in 36pt as well as bold. We already know … because Robin Dunbar has told us that the number is 150 … and talking of ‘meaning’ simple maths will tell you that if just 1 hour a week is needed to have a ‘meaningful relationship’ with someone – then 168 people is the maximum you can have – assuming that you don’t sleep and that nobody takes up more than an hour ….  so what the hell does it meant to have 5,000 Facebook friends?

And why do I have to connect over and over again in so many different corporate silos – where I am herded, segmented, tracked and sold to – and if that isn’t enough – anything I share … anything is not mine. It is ‘theirs’. To do what they want with including selling the information on to others and/or giving the information to governments and political parties so that I can be ‘targeted’.

I have written previously in a BizCatalyst 360° article … ‘Signal Intercept From Low Orbit’ … to be exact about how military terminology is used so much by the modern corporate that we might be forgiven to think we are seen by them as the enemy. We are … the enemy that must be taken down, and have our pockets picked until there is no need to carry a wallet to get share of – because there is nothing in it.

Expect a second ‘graphic article’ from me when I examine what I call ‘The Business Equation‘ that corporates work with – and flip it on its head.

Meanwhile – back to that question asked by Aruna. It isn’t empowering because ‘we the people’ are not in control – at least not in the main stream social silos. It isn’t overpowering because ‘we the people’ are cutting those silos out of our lives. 2018/19 will become known as ‘peak social’.

When Aruna writes

The lure of Social Media will only increase with time. With their significance and power as a potent media form, we will not be able to switch ourselves off or log ourselves completely out of it.

I think she is missing out on what really keeps people coming back. It’s the dopamine hit. Nir Eyal on this 5 years ago …. and as you read today about the opioid crisis as if we have just woken up and learned what is happening … know that Wikipedia’s first entry on ‘Opioid Epidemic’ went live Feb. 9th 2017, though there are articles on Opioids goes all the way back to 2004 and of course, we are just now beginning to understand that the Sackler family’s documented knowledge of the problem goes back nearly twenty years. Keep this in mind when around 2035 we start the court proceedings against the social software companies.

Finally, Aruna writes

Five simple tricks and tactics to manage the Social media and make it work for you, without allowing it to enslave you.

to me, the only one needed is at the end of number one …

Know the raison d’être for your life. Listen to that big drummer up there who beats uniquely for you, hear out the silent little beats that make music only for you and follow your impassioned heart and rational mind into getting on the path that only YOU are meant to tread upon.

If you do that … and then ask ‘why Social’ – you will have your answer.


John Philpin
John Philpin
JOHN'S career spans 30 years, 2 continents, and organizations as diverse as Oracle, Citibank and GE. A Mathematics graduate, John moved to California in 1990. He helps technology companies create, develop and deliver their story for fund raising, market development and influencer programs. He also works with businesses to ensure they understand, and are ready, for the ever accelerating changes that technology is bringing to their industry. John is a co-founder of Expert Alumni and gleXnet and long before futurists and industry watchers were writing about the impending challenges that industries were going to be facing, they predicted a perfect storm of issues like skills gap, declining work forces, the gig economy, people trained to do work no longer needed, demographic shifts, economic and social change, market upheaval and rapidly changing ways of doing work. From the beginning they have promoted the idea that massive change was coming to how organizations should think about their workforce, with a singular focus on simplifying the interface between people and their work. Understanding the challenges ahead of the curve, the solution was built to arrive at a better understanding of the greatest restraint to business operations - competence, not capital. gleXnet provides unparalleled insights into an organizations people and operations by flipping the problem from the perspective of people, not the business.

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  1. Well, then, John, you have stirred within me some thoughts. Of vital concern during these political times is as you mentioned, “not only lost our voice but maybe even forgotten that we have one.” Social media has become an addiction where I have witnessed a loss of true social skills about connecting, engaging, and deepening a conversation. It has replaced self-reflection and has driven more self-obsession with less time for the space between, the silences of pondering a thought spoken by another. In the words of Rumi, “Listen to the silence is has much to say.”