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Backlash against social media gathers steam


Two articles recently caught my eye. Although they were not apparently related, I saw an underlying connection that speaks, perhaps, to the future of social media.

The first, on the front page of last Saturday’s San Francisco Chronicle, was headlined “Cafe asks customers to turn off laptops and start talking.” It seems there’s a coffee shop right here in Oakland whose owner “is asking customers to leave their laptops at home and actually speak to each other.” Anyone who’s ever been in a free wi-fi environment like Starbucks is familiar with the situation: people hunkered down at tables, nursing a $3 latte for hours while surfing the web. “I don’t have anything against technology,” said the cafe’s owner, a young, hip-looking guy with a goatee (i.e. not some dinosaur Boomer who “doesn’t get it”), “but it’s not the same as looking someone in the eye and pressing the flesh.”

I’ve expressed some negative feelings in this blog over the last year about the way laptops and other personal digital devices, like cell phones, are intruding into the social contract. That contract is an old one, understood pretty much by everyone, and it relates to how we behave in shared social situations. In a crowded elevator, for example, most people will be silent and avoid making eye contact with strangers. On an airplane flight, passengers understand the concept of personal space, which includes audio space: don’t let your arms stick over into your neighbor’s area, don’t make unnecessary noise, etc.

What technology is doing to us is destroying the traditional social contract. Now, that person next to you in the elevator is just as likely to be yakking into a Bluetooth. The other day at my gym, a woman was screaming at the top of her lungs into her cell phone for a good half-hour, while the rest of us had to endure her drama. With laptops in cafes, it’s just the opposite: where ten years ago patrons might have been debating about politics, gossiping, or playing chess, today they’re absorbed in their own little worlds. They might as well be on the Space Shuttle as in a crowded room with other human beings. “It’s now socially acceptable to text during dinner parties or stand alone at a party and check email,” the Chronicle article acidly observed.

Not at my dinner parties!

The second article was sent to me by Ron Washam, the famous Hosemaster of Wine. It is an excerpt from a new book, “You Are Not a Gadget,” by a Harpers Magazine writer, Jason Lanier. Lanier deconstructs many myths surrounding social media in a way I strongly agree with. His underlying message is that social media is not only not bringing us closer and making us better, more dextrous communicators, but in fact is achieving exactly the opposite. “I know quite a few people, most of them young adults, who are proud to say that they have accumulated thousands of friends on Facebook. Obviously, their statements can be true only if the idea of friendship is diminished,” Lanier writes, in a devastatingly pinpoint j’accuse whose truth is hard to deny. Lanier also demolishes one of the more persistent myths of social media: that its “hive mind” nature, in which thousands or millions of individual human minds are collectivized digitally, is somehow superior to a mere “organic human.” This is the assumption made by those entrepreneurs (and I’ve recently written about them) who are launching all these new “people’s wine tastings,” in which the collective wisdom of the crowd is said to be more trustworthy than the judgment of an individual expert. “The most tiresome claim of the reigning digital philosophy is that crowds working for free do a better job at some things than antediluvian paid experts,” Lanier writes. Tiresome, indeed.

The connection between the two articles is that there is a backlash setting in against social media. In the first case, real people, such as the cafe owner, are starting to understand how divisive technology can be (and it’s interesting that their customers are beginning to agree with them). In the second case, academics are questioning the metaphysics of social media, not just analyzing it, but peering into its destructive potential. So we have two prongs moving together in a pincer movement: normal people on the ground and the philosophers of the academy. That is now movements form, and generate momentum.

  1. Steve, very thought provoking. Like all enlightened wineries these days, we are actively engaged in social networking, and find it a great tool to be able to ‘talk’ directly to our wine lovers. Direct feedback of what people think about our wines, and we are able to tell them about how we make it, and who we are. Our blog and Facebook fanpage are small windows of what is going on at Cortes de Cima for people who have never been here. Hard to argue that that’s not useful stuff!

    But I fully agree to the dangers of overdoing social networking. I have attended Wine Bloggers Conferences, and have been amazed at how people think they can ‘multitask’ – that is, twittering, facebooking, talking to their neighbors, and ‘listening’ to the speakers. Are they REALLY listening? Bravo to our Oakland cafe owner!

  2. We are all learning how to use social media, its rights and its wrongs, so a lot if what you say is true. There is nothing better than face-to-face human contact, but we are learning how to use digital communication sensibly and, dare I say it, politely. The term ‘friends’ on Facebook, Twitter etc is incorrect -most of them are ‘contacts or acquaintances’ such as fellow students at school or college, or fellow employees at work. Sure, we ‘know’ them but most of them are not our friends.
    We just need to to understand who our real friends are, and social media must always take 2nd place to real human contact.
    We’re in the process of learning how to use the new means of communication – responsibly.
    I do remember my great grandfather’s use of the new fangled telephone. When it rang the butler would bring the apparatus to him, even when he was giving a dinner party. All the guests would become silent and listen with awe at his, one sided, conversation.
    He soon instructed Jeeves not to disturb his dinner party guests.

  3. Steve, one of my favorite posts in recent memory, although I’ll pretend you didn’t reference the SF Chronicle. And goatees, not so hip really. I don’t agree that tech is destroying the social contract. It is evolving it. Times change. The example of the woman screaming on her cell phone is just flat out ignorance on her part. I have a smartphone and don’t do the same, though I do enjoy keeping up on Twitter and Facebook.

    However, I totally agree on your second point. People are assigning inflated value–against all social norms and definitions of “friends” as you state–to absolute numbers, be it Twitter Followers or Facebook Friends. In many cases they may represent a relationship of a different kind: shared interests, common goals, etc. For the most part, though, I’d guess they’re spammers, paid offshore shills or inmates. Except mine of course, all up-standing.

    Also, two articles does not = backlash. Reality check, yes. But I think you have a point!

  4. I had similar thought last week at Vino2010. I was in the bar at the Waldorf, waiting for a friend. Got my drink and checked my email on my phone. When I looked up, I realized that every other person at the bar was deep into their phone as well. No conversation. No getting to know someone next to you at the bar. Funny thing is, everyone there was almost certainly in the wine business and had we taken a moment to chat, we might have found a business connection.
    The next day, on the train back to Philly, it was the exact same situation. Laptops and phones. No interaction. No conversation (save for those talking on the phones).
    Don’t get me wrong. Many a time I have NOT wanted conversation on a train or plane and simply wanted to read my book instead, but it does seem to me that something is certainly lost at a bar when nobody and I mean nobody had the least inclination to have a casual conversation with the person on either side of them.

  5. While I find the social media thing a bit over-hyped these days, from my perspective, some traditional media journalists have created an impenetrable hierarchy, a virtual rope line that chooses who gets in their club and who waits outside. When I talk to those who appear to not be among the chosen, they voice their annoyance (over those “dinosaurs that don’t get it”) and look for ways to storm the gates. Social media gives them that power, albeit temporary, to challenge the status quo. It offers a path of democratization for the new talents to have their voices heard in a crowded room where even the established “antediluvian paid experts” are searching for higher ground.

  6. I’m in the business of sales and my survival requires my use of social media. Social media tools actually make the sales process more cumbersome.

    I was at a Superbowl party last weekend with a housefull of boomers and their kids. It was humerous to note that during the commercials most of the crowd was focused on the TUBE. At other times us old timers were busy socializing, however a significant number of the kids there, who were sitting next to each other were busy staring or typing into their phones.

    Changing times indeed.

  7. Sounds like some folks have a problem with “change”… while I agree there should be some etiquette adhered to when in public or at parties, I don’t see this as any different than other technological shifts in our society like the invention of the car, printing press, whatever. I am sure there were people who felt everyone should stay home with the family everyday, or stay close to the community, rather than traverse the country in their new cars or it would ruin the social contract, oh my!

    I tend to look at opportunities in such things and ask myself, “here’s how I can make this work and use it to my advantage”… instead of reacting with “here’s why this doesn’t work and is useless”

  8. There is a time and a place for everything . . . and the concept of living one’s life via technological gadgets without having real person to person interaction is, in my opinion, not living one’s life to the fullest.

    Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE blogging, texting, etc. as much as anyone in this industry – but ‘old school’ interaction simply cannot be beat!

    At the end of the recent Unified Symposium Conference talk on Social Media headed by Rick Bakas with panelists including Jeff Stai, Paul Mabray, and Alan Knopf, it was clear that folks were still struggling with the concept of ‘social media’ as a whole. Not only that, but it seemed to me that in this day and age, they ‘forgot’ that you do not need to get rid of ‘old school marketing’ to add newer technologies to the mix . . .

    At the end of the talk, I made sure and spoke with each of the panelists directly, letting them know how important it was to me to put a name with a twitter name, facebook face, etc . . .

    Just a little rant this morning . . .


  9. Alfonso: I totally support “democratization” and do not consider myself to have created “an impenetrable hierarchy” around myself. I’m just a guy with a job. If people want to see me as a “club” with a “rope line,” that’s their privilege, but it’s hardly how I see myself!

  10. Thank you for the shoutout, Steve.

    Much of what the author is trying to say in the entire article, and this is a man who has thought about humans and machines for decades and made the term “virtual reality” popular, is that humans tend to diminish themselves in order to make machines seem more important, and this is especially true for modern machines. Hence the comment about Facebook “friends.”

    He offers as proof of his contention that crowds working for free do not replace paid experts the fact that advertising on the Internet has not vanished. If, he contends, we could get what we wanted from the crowd’s opinions for free, the need for advertising would vanish. Every penny that Google makes, he says, and I’m paraphrasing, and Google makes a LOT of pennies, is proof that the wisdom of and value of the unpaid crowd is overrated and will not replace paid experts. And, moreover, he implies, people do not trust the wisdom of the crowd.

    He does NOT say that people should stop using their gadgets. Nor does he say that the gadgets are useless. He gracefully points out that before there was a Facebook people could have emailed all their friends directly at once, they could have set up links to all their friends and their friends’ friends, and that Facebook does nothing that one couldn’t do before and fairly easily. Yet we laud Facebook and diminish ourselves. We count as “Friends” hundreds of folks we barely know, and no matter how you slice it that diminishes the word “Friends.”

    What he’s saying that seems worth contemplating is how much one is diminishing ones self, and ones relationships, by constantly using machines. And, he says very loudly, how often are we giving far too much credit to machines at the expense of ourselves as individuals, as humans. It ain’t about attacking Social Media, it’s a defense of individuals.

    And, truthfully, everyone that attacks his points actually seems to prove them.

    OK, I’ll go back to being funny and defamatory now.

  11. Oh, my mistake, I had thought this blog was about WINE.

    Sorry, couldn’t resist. 🙂

    Ok, back to staring at my screen and ignoring those around me…

  12. I’m old enough to remember sitting in a coffee shop reading a book or newspaper. When I looked up, everybody else was also reading a book or a newspaper, instead of interacting with each other.


  13. David, your point is valid. These electronic gadgets just seem much more distancing than a newspaper or book ever did. For one thing, there’s the obnoxious voice pollution. People reading newspapers typically don’t read out loud, the way they chatter on cell phones or through bluetooth devices or whatever they are. I am fully aware that there is a generational thing going on. But I really do believe there is a backlash setting in.

  14. It’s a normal balancing. Before there was no need for a social contract regarding these devices. Now they are everywhere and everyone is using them. The social contract has not gone anywhere, it is just being given amendments. And the personal touch is that much more memorable now. Hand-written thank you cards and a letter send my USPS (ee gads!) are now much more important and stand out in a person’s mind.

  15. @David Honig

    A coffee shop is different. I’m willing to bet you didn’t go sit at a busy bar on a Thursday night and read a newspaper.
    I’m not saying it is right or wrong and I’m right there reading my phone, same as everyone, but it is a changing social atmosphere and that’s a fact.


  16. Jim Caudill says:

    Ah David, and remember how sweet it was when you leaned over and said “you done with the sports section?” and started, perhaps, a whole new friendship.

  17. I remember the first time, years ago, I overheard someone in a grocery store using their cell phone to discuss that night’s dinner selections and related shopping list, and being appalled. I thought, who does this?? Isn’t this a conversation you have before you leave the house? And many, many times in the restaurant/retail wine store where I currently work, I am mortified by people who speak loudly on their cell phones as if they are the only people on earth, within easy earshot of a restaurant full of people. Worse are the folks who refuse to end their call or stop texting when you come over to take their order, and act as if you’ve interrupted some vitally important summit on world peace. I am astounded by how much rudeness I see where cell phones, instant messaging, texting, tweeting and so on are concerned in public spaces.

    However, as someone who blogs and uses social media myself, I know theres’ a way to do it politely, and without being a completey uncooth moron in public spaces. And I geuinely feel, like Gary Vaynerchuk says, this technology is here to stay, and you’ve got to embrace it and make it work for you, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do that. Or least, for an old-fashioned soul like me, there’s a right way and a wrong way! I’m sure there are alot of 20-somethings who would beg to differ.

  18. Not germaine to the issue, but just a little story:

    In my wine shop a few years ago I was talking to a new, to me, customer about a wine she was thinking over when, while I was in mid sentence, she grabbed her phone from her pocket and started to talk.

    After she was done interrupting me with her phone conversation, I mentioned that I didn’t even heat her phone ring. That’s when she told me about a new piece of cell phone technology called the vibrator.

    Noticing that she kept the phone in her pocket, I instinctively, and without stopping to think what I was about to do, I looked at her pocket and said, “you must walk around all day having a good time in there.”

  19. i need some wine with all this talk with whine. sheesh! you may not like what’s happening, and neither do I, but does that stop me from smiling at others, from looking in THEIR eyes when we pass, from saying hello? certainly not. anyway, people so engrossed in themselves are not the peeps i want to hang with, are they yours? it doesn’t sound like it. so don’t fret it! there will be a shake out of bored people who realize how empty/shallow social networking can be and then there will be those who absolutely love it. and of course a middle ground who has found a balance. choose your camp and let the others go where they may. i personally have just defriended a number of FB “friends” who i never hear from, nor them from me, and boy, does cleaning out that closet feel refreshing.

  20. Rule #1: Meatspace has priority over cyberspace.

    I want to clarify something. I feel that our panel did make it quite clear that SM was part of a broader mix of traditional and new approaches. And at end of the panel I asked that everyone in the room who follows me on Twitter to please come up and introduce themselves – and several did. I agree with Larry how important it is to make that real contact.

  21. Thanks for the response Steve. Glad you feel that way, amigo – but from the way you have embraced the bloggy-blog world, I took it that you were more of a gate-stormer than a status-quo type. And a sensitive, new-age kind of guy as well, so Washam claims.

    There are plenty, old school and new media alike, in the ranks who embrace exclusionary philosophies, even if it might be detrimental to their survival. Ever read DeRopps “The Master Game?”

  22. I think that this is less about the destruction of the traditional social contract as much as it is about its inevitable re-construction. The rules of engagement have yet to be written and it’s really too early to say how all of this is going to go down even six months from now. My niece informed me the other day that she no longer goes to her high school for classes but gets them online. “Talking in Class” will probably soon be removed from the Principal’s list of Cardinal Sins and come back as its own course of study. Anyway, Steve, great blog.

  23. It will be interesting to see how the grand wine public responds as wineries social network them en masse. It’s healthy to see new marketing initiative in the biz, that’s for sure, especially given ’08, ’09 and predictions for ’10.
    And think of the jobs; Gallo’s opening for social media marketing manager only says California so maybe it’s not Modesto.

    I do enjoy airport terminals where high power people talk on their smartphones and give me their email addresses and meeting schedules as they talk business. And I listened as one exec took five calls, one after another, from people at different layers in a company that had just gone bust: he was so skilled at laying out opposing sympathetic noises I wished it had been recorded as a webinar. (No, I didn’t.)

    But no talk in a cafe or bar? Wait. Maybe people will drink more wine if they aren’t talking (advice to servers, just keep pouring).

  24. In regard to the new wave of consumer awarded wine competitions, I have observed for years that many professional wine judges are often, if not usually, behind the curve when it comes to recognizing what the public is drinking and enjoying. The constant complains form many pros regarding alcohol levels over 14% or extracted flavors is in conflict with the public who, when given the opportunity to vote, will usually chose the 15% alcohol wine over the 12.5% and the extracted California profile over the thin and acidic French counterpart that my father enjoyed (and I do too having just reached the age of 67). The public taste, thanks to the inclusion of so many new wine lovers in the 25 to 45 year old range, has morfed into an American palate that many old pros, who have the by-lines, seem to ignore. To be a successful winemaker these days is it better to make wine for the judges or your public?
    As to the new social media, I have a very hard time keeping comments to 140 characters, as you can see.

  25. It is strange for me, as a self-described introvert who often won’t say a word outside of ordering in a cafe, to find extroverts turned digital. Bars and cafes are quieter, but I always enjoyed being in a noisy atmosphere. I check email, and read the news on my phone, but I used to read the newspaper, local weekly or a book in its place. Social media is a strong marketing tool that I lament due to our inability to “turn off” commercial advertising in our lives, but from a business perspective, I have a great respect for it. I hope people do turn back the tide a bit, and liven up the old hang outs once again. Thanks for the post.

  26. I think the coffee shop owner isn’t upset at social media or laptops, he’s upset that people are siting around his shop for hours after only buying 1 cup of coffee.

    I’m still pissed at cable TV– hundreds of channels of programming and nothing to watch… When are they going to fix that? 😉

  27. Really enjoyed this post! I agree there are many instances where social media is disruptive to face to face human interaction. When you are sitting across from someone and trying to engage in a meaningful conversation and all they keep doing is checking there twitter feed every 3 seconds. Always a shame when people sacrifice IRL (in real life) connections for the virtual ones.

    I see social media as a way to connect and stay connected with people of similar interest that I would not have normally had the opportunity to meet or interact with. I can now connect with people from as far away as Russia with ease. People who are hermits and using social media as away to hide behind a screen are missing the point. I have met and formed many real relationships with real people, that I have met on different social networking sites. These relationships are grounded in real face to face meetings and dialogs, that have enriched my life.

    Social media is new and befuddles many people, but it is no more disruptive to the world then the internet, cell phones, email, faxes, tv, or radio. All have been accused of fundamentally changing our culture yet they have survived and the masses have embraced them. Kudos to those who make a personal choice not to let social media dominate their lives. I applaud this personal choice, I say personal because what is good for one may not be good for all. Why is it we, as humans, always try to force our own perceptions and believes on others?

    I write this as I sit in a coffee shop in Napa where people are engaged in conversations, and I am the only LOSER using his laptop to write this message.

    FYI this blog is part of the social media landscape! I would have loved to have this conversation face to face but alas you are not sitting in the coffee shop with me!


  28. Steve, your article is most poignant and true. “Would George Washington have crossed the Potomac if he were Twittering?” is something I often ask myself. As in all things in life, there must be a balance, an equilibrium. That even goes for cyberspace. Isaac Newton himself might even agree!

  29. Steve,

    Another great post that prods an issue that was just bubbling up for myself. It made me think of the recent NY Times Style Section article about a young SF woman who has more shoes than iPhone apps – and only feels strangely about it when she’s surrounded by tech friends cooing over their accumulations of “useful” apps. Do we really need it all? To me, her quote was prescient (and I’m paraphrasing here): “It’s this sense that I’m missing out on something I didn’t know I needed.” Perhaps we’ll soon discover that we don’t really need so much social media. In the meantime, I’ll keep Tweeting away, though I’ve got to say I wouldn’t mind stopping into that Oakland cafe and enjoying a little eye contact before long.

    Cheers, CC

  30. I find it interesting that all the people in the gym did not socially interact with the lady “screaming in the cell phone” and tell her to please not interfere with their free time. To allow someone to take your own precious time, is your own fault. How about, “hey lady, take a break, will ya?”

    I strongly agree that social interface is rapidly chancing the world, and not necessarily for the good. I too use Facebook to catch up with old friends, but the company’s I’m ‘friends’ with, are starting to come off as sales pitches.

    Recently on CNBC one commentator actually said what a lot of people think. At this rate of growing technology, we will no longer need people to go out and sell our products. And we will eventually make fewer products here in America, thus even more unemployment.

    Bottom line, at least for me, I really don’t care what most people have to say in 140 characters.

  31. CAwinediva, the thing to understand about my gym is that it’s in downtown Oakland. Very racially, ethnically, sexually diverse. People learn to tolerate each other because it’s the only way for us all to live together.

  32. Hi Steve –

    Such a timely article. For us we embrace social media for its ability to give more color to our company. We can speak beyond the label and offer up a taste of our style and personality and we can speak uncensored – there is no filter other than us. At the end of the day, we are grateful for new ways to speak directly with our customers. The industry is so limited in how it can communicate that social media really feels like Freedom of Speech for an industry that gets little benefit from traditional marketing.

  33. Jessica, a great and wise comment. Thanks.

  34. I agree with a balance of use. Of course as I sit here at Starbucks between meetings typing away on my laptop..I use social media to connect to friends and family and meet new people and network. I also use it for winery clients who have fan pages.

    What I hate is when I am sitting at a lunch with other colleagues and someone has their face buried in their smartphone tweeting about sitting having lunch! So ignoring your lunch guests to tell people you are having lunch. Really happened! This is just called “updating” and not interacting!

    In this day and age it is hard to meet new people and make real connections, make new friends to hang would be nice if coffee shops encouraged interacting. Not just telling us “hey, put down the phone and stow the laptop” but perhaps host game nights or card nights or something to break the ice and get people talking!!

    Social media should is useful but don’t have it replace actually interacting when you are sitting in front of other people who know!!

  35. Disclaimer: I work in social media so certainly believe in it.

    What strikes me about the first postulation that the coffee shop owner is not telling people who are buried in their newspapers or books to put them down and talk. This makes me think it’s a bit of a overreach that this example is indicative of attitudes explicitly targeted at social media. Rather, I think it’s a more generalized response to the role of technology in our society.

    To me social media and technology are tools and to some degree I see this argument as throwing out the baby with the bath water. I am certainly critical of how some use social media (e.g. those who follow thousands — not necessarily those who have thousands of followers) but I also realize that it is a tool that can be applied appropriately.

    Similarly, computers, phones, and now tablets are just mediums for consuming (and producing) information. If someone chooses to read their newspaper on a computer rather than on dead trees at a coffee shop, I see no difference in that. Personally, I still enjoy my printed paper but I understand why others have made the conversion.

    Additionally, I have noticed a demographic shift in society where more people are freelancers and today’s technology allows one to work from anywhere — myself included. Rather than being holed up in a dingy office or a spare bedroom, I spend several hours a week working in a coffee shop. Certainly, there are periods where I am not in conversation but the result is that I have many more chance encounters and short discussions that would never transpire otherwise.

    What we are experiencing is change – change that is happening rapidly and pervasively relative to other periods in our history. The problem is not in the technology but in how we use it and how we react to it.

  36. Lisa Mattson says:

    Another brilliant, thought-provoking discussion, Steve. I agree with many commenters, including Kimberly, ChrisO, Hardy, David H, Chip, et al.

    I disagree with the idea that Facebook (or technology) is keeping us from having meaningful personal interactions. (It might be true that some Millenials prefer to text versus talk but I still think most people crave face-to-face connections.) There are so many people in my life that I don’t get to see or speak to regularly (family and friends in Midwest, Florida and Ireland where I lived before) — and I can’t get on a plane and go see them more than once every few years. With social media, I feel as if I’m a part of their lives even though I’m thousands of miles away. I read their status updates. I see their children’s pictures. I couldn’t do this before Facebook. (If I drank coffee, I’d probably go to Starbucks for a latte to scroll through my Facebook feed and catch up on all my friends’ lives — it would be more suitable to my life as a transplant than sitting at a table and just talking to one person.)

    In terms of my behavior with online conversation and new technology, all these fragmented sources for communicating (and entertaining) have actually prompted me MORE to personally connect with someone LIVE. Nowadays, I find myself seeing an old friend’s status update on Facebook and sending them a quick invite to meet up for dinner or drinks. I probably wouldn’t be having dinner with Stephane Vivier of HdV next Saturday if it wasn’t for Facebook.

    Online conversation is here to stay and the idea of communicating from “one to many” versus “one on one” just makes more sense in this era.

  37. Steve, as a regular business traveler, could you please list the airlines you fly where you find these rules of proper airline behavior practiced? I have never been fortunate enough to be on them, and would like to personally experience what you describe here: “passengers understand the concept of personal space, which includes audio space: don’t let your arms stick over into your neighbor’s area, don’t make unnecessary noise, etc.”

    My only solution on planes is to plug in my iTouch, write blog posts, and try to avoid my loud neighbors and their pointy elbows!

  38. Silly people, of course George Washington would have never crossed the Potomic if he was twittering. But he would be using his GPS.

    Good food for thought. Thanks Steve. I agree with you about cell phones and how they have been intrusive. But other forms of social media, I have to disagree. And to save your space for my rant, I placed it here instead:

  39. The subject of people and technology is both timeless and evocative, as it should be with anything that is so pervasive and life changing. I tend to agree with the arguments presented, but totally disagree with the conclusion. Social media is obviously here to stay and as with the creation of the internet itself (God bless you Al Gore) it has its’ real virtues and real evils. One answer is balancing technology in a meaningful way in life, just like anything else that can led to excess. But was does meaningful mean today when anyone that burps in public feels that is their right to expression.

  40. Dr. Debs, most people on airlines understand the unwritten rules. There’s always a schmuck who doesn’t. Pardon my French.

  41. Casey Hartlip says:

    I feel very strongly about this issue as well. We had a family gathering a few weeks ago, where some folks drove a couple of hours and stayed overnight. At one of the meals, my stepson was texting a buddy about a football bet that they were working on. My 9 year old granddaughter was using the ‘popping bubble wrap’ app on her fathers iphone.

    The next time people come over to my house, I’m passing a hat and the gadgets go in until they leave.

  42. Steve,

    I know it has long been a project of yours to attempt to dismiss any value that social media may provide. I think it is way too early to form any conclusions that the backlash against Social Media has started because one business has asked patrons to leave their devices off and a particular study demonizes a sliver of how social media is being used.

    I use Facebook, but not Twitter. I have a lot more FB friends than people I really know that well, but my close friends are on there too. We can talk about the weather, current events or share some juicy gossip, that except for our busy lives that has us going in physically non-intersecting paths, we may share over a meal or a cup of coffee. I find that I have affinities with some people I have met through social media that are pretty narrow but still stimulating to share.

    The lightbulb doesn’t stop us from dining by candlelight, and the television didn’t kill radio. After I’m done with my social media, I either read magazine or a novel for an hour before bed. Print journalism is struggling because there are so many channels of communication and just like words on paper, people will gravitate to what they like.

    Lastly your comment about “crowds working for free” isn’t exactly right. Most of these ‘peoples wine tastings’ actually charge for the right to weigh in on what they like – essentially they are subscribing to their own / peer group opinion. These types of tastings don’t usually include the types of wines that you or I would tend to write about which is a pretty narrow band of small production, high quality examples. Agreed? Hope to see you at PNV next week 🙂

  43. Doug, I wish I could kill this perception that I “dismiss any value that social media may have.” I have never taken that position. I’ve written repeatedly of the value of social media in getting news out fast (as witness the Tehran demonstrations), networking, keeping in touch with friends and family, etc. What I HAVE questioned is whether social media has ever sold a bottle of wine. Or whether it can. And if so, how? I don’t see the business model and no one has been able to explain it to me, except through starry eyed optimism. I am not against social media. Why would I be? A great review in Wine Enthusiast sells bottles. Maybe Gary V. can sell bottles. But who else can? Does anything ever written on Twitter sell anything? I don’t think so.

  44. steve,
    you mention in above comment about value of social media outside wine industry; why can’t same ideas be applied to it? I.E., “value of social media in getting [wine] news out fast….[wine picks] networking, keeping [wine] in touch with friends, family, etc.”

    bottom line is that what has been shown to sell ANY product more than anything else is…..WORD OF MOUTH. tadaaa!

    and isn’t social networking just that? unfortunately this is not easily measured as an ad campaign with a 1-800 number attached or any other measuring method.

    but see, just see a little how it might work? i also understand your point, that as long as this stuff is not quantifiable, what’s the point? well, do books sell wine? do newspaper articles sell wine? i’d like to see the numbers on that, because if there aren’t any, might as well throw those into this mix, too, because even though they’re not part of social media and web 2.0 and all that, they do share information, don’t they? and if you don’t know if they work, what’s the point? or, hmmm. maybe that was never the point. just people sharing their passion through venues that spread the word. kind of like all this social networking.

    it’ll all be ok. trust. trust.

  45. uncultivated life, we know magazine reviews sell wine. A high score in a respected publication pushes many cases of wine. A tweet, so far, does not.

  46. Steve,

    I spoke at the Direct to Consumer Symposium last month on Integrating Social Media into an existing Marketing Program. The one thing I stressed is Social Media is not about selling, it creates the possibility that over time people may understand more about you, your subject of expertise or your product and then based on that information make an informed decision to interact/explore/acquire/avoid, etc. It is used as a way to communicate with those you already influence and those you hope to.

    I did hear that Rick Bakas (St. Supery) sold a prodigious amount of cases with a single Tweet. While I don’t know the specifics, I realize it had to be a pretty compelling message.

  47. there’s the key word: “respected.”

    that’s what print 1.0 guys like yourself have that the majority of web 2.0 people don’t. yet. while web 2.0 provides all us unknowns with tools to reach the masses, are we respected? some break through the clutter and find they have a loud voice, either by their own doing or all that viral spread. ultimately, like any wine, there will be an audience, and respect will follow. how long that respect lasts is up to the person reaching out, how they stick to their guns and don’t sway under peer pressure (or scores). this is what will separate the chaff from the wheat.
    thanks for thoughtful post. and if i ever am within 10 feet of you, i will turn my cell phone off.


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