Social media: Just add water….. Instant expert

3 06 2012

In an exercise in sheer bluff and hypocrisy, I am now going to expand my hypothesis (aka brief thought and opinion) on social media encourages us to turn a fleeting thought into an opinion, and an opinion into instant expertise.

Somewhere in medical school, they teach doctors how to sound like they know what they are talking about. Not lie, not guess, but somehow, to convey an air of authority and confidence so that patients feel comfortable undertaking treatments. When you go and see a doctor, you want him or her to tell you the truth, but you also want them to tell you what they think is wrong with you and confidently lay out a treatment plan. You don’t want them umming and aahing about possible diagnoses and treatments and unable to make a decision. You want assurance that they know what they are doing.

Of course there is a down-side to this. When they really don’t know what they are talking about, they still manage to convey an air of authority, as anyone related or in business with a doctor may tell you.

Well, social media has the same effect. Social media wants you to say something. SOMETHING. Anything really, given some of the things we have all seen floating around the internet. But it wants you to have an opinion, pick a side, take a stand. Then we can all agree with you (*like*) or disagree with you (sometimes erupting into flaming). Social media does not want you to be reasonable and rational and tentative. Social media treats such rationality with the withering scorn it deserves. Social media IGNORES such approaches.

So being the attention-seekers that we are (not you and me – other people online) we turn into mini-shock-jocks. We start spouting opinions and, with the nice but false anonymity that sitting behind a screen seems to give us, we become mini-experts on a given subject. And then another, and then another.

And once you have put your opinion out there, you need to defend it.

While in real life we might be reasonable and rational, venturing opinions, gaining feedback and using it to modify our opinions, online we are experts. We have staked out our opinion in black and white and it cannot ever be retracted. Therefore no matter what evidence is presented to us, we must resort to the lowest of low tactics to defend our spot. Attack the messenger. We must dominate.

Present company excepted of course. You and I would never do that. But does it sound like what you have seen online?

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