Do We Hold Social Media To A Different Standard?


I read an interesting post written by Lauren Fernandez a few days ago – “Social Media Hypocrites: How genuine is this platform?”

In her post, Lauren asks whether social media provides people with “too much leeway for hypocrisy” and whether some involved in social media abuse that medium. The post was written to spur conversation – and it has.  In her post, Lauren writes:

Question. Are we all social media hypocrites? Ok, not all of us, but definitely a few. How genuine is social media? I read blog posts of a stance someone holds, then they speak a different opinion if someone disagrees. They network with people based solely off their profession, not off what they stand for, like, etc. They tell me one thing to try to “build” or “connect” with me, but tell my friend Bob something else. Guess what? Bob and I talk.

The questions Lauren asks in her post are both appropriate and legitimate. Yet, I wonder whether as a group, we’re holding social media to a different standard than other forms of media – or better yet – other forms of communication.

Lauren’s post reminded me of an excellent panel at SXSW this past March led by Russ Unger and David Armano“Friendship Is Dead”. That panel explored “how the word ‘friendship’ came to be and … how our online social networks have begun to erode away at what friendship has meant.” I had the same reaction to Russ and David’s panel – that in assessing the purported erosion of “friendship”, we’re holding our online activities to a different standard than our offline activities (and friendships).

I suspect that many of us would agree that there are plenty of hypocrites in social media (starting with the so-called “experts”). But hypocrisy is hypocrisy – whether on Twitter or in a face-to-face conversation. There’s real value in exploring the questions such as those Lauren asks in her post. But in exploring such questions, shouldn’t we hold all of our relationships, interactions and communications to a common standard?

image credit: assbach


  1. I watched a video from Gary Vaynerchuk this weekend where he talked about more eyeballs in the form of followers would not change a person but expose the true identity of that person.

    This can be applied here because the content and tone of conversations that are held on social media platforms really just expose the individuals communication “standard”.

    What I’m saying is, I don’t think there is a common standard across a group of people but only a common standard for each individual, set by that individual.

  2. Ryan – I agree that there is a common standard for each individual. But do you think we hold individuals to a different standard when they are interacting online – such as on Twitter, Facebook, or in a blog – versus when we interact with them offline? Or is the increased visibility and echo chamber of social media simply creating the perception that the standards are different?

  3. This is a provoking idea.

    Perhaps social media cuts both ways. It extends our relationship networks but allows a mask. It touches our inner voice but allows us to broadcast falsehoods.

    I’ve seen fake people online now, and I’ve discovered realities about friends that are surprising. It’s just a choice. You can open up the soul, or you can shill to the crowd.

  4. Ben – interesting point. I tend to agree with you that social media cuts both ways. But is it simply that people’s actions are amplified in social media (a fake person becomes even more fake when online; a nice person is easy to spot), or that we scrutinize people much more?

    And – this is where it gets interesting – to what degree does group-think influence perceptions? Someone gets popular and attracts lots of attention – so everyone assumes they’re nice, helpful, etc. The reality can be very different – the echo chamber is pretty deafening.

Speak Your Mind