Has Social Media Turned us Into Linchpins or Lemmings?


The recent passing of Steve Jobs probably made everybody take another look at Apple’s Famous 1984 spot directed by Ridley Scott. We all remember the rolls of marching minions.

Many say that the commercial was inspired by Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. The movie takes place in a dystopian society where wealthy intellectuals rule from vast tower complexes, oppressing the workers who live in the depths below them. It was created during a time of industrial change not to the betterment of all.

Because I was a film freak in college I also remember Modern Times a 1936 comedy film by Charlie Chaplin that has his iconic Little Tramp character struggling to survive in the modern, industrialized world.  It was created during the last great depression.

Who was it that wrote that the more that things change, the more those things stay the same?

So what are we today?  Are we linchpins who are indispensible or are we lemmings who go along unquestioningly with popular opinion, mass culture and social media?  Just like the lemmings that follow others off cliffs or become the Mayor of their local Starbucks.

I think that Smart Phones are certainly a misnomer when placed in the hands of many people. I see lines of lemmings every morning standing six deep in the line at Starbucks looking at their crackberries like their next big gig is going to come in the form of a text or unexpected Facebook post.  They are oblivious to the people around them.  Their engagement comes from their phones rather than the people around them.  They have no clue if the Barista’s mother is the President of a bank and could help them get their next job.  She doesn’t look successful they assume.  Community isn’t in your phone; it is in your life moments.

Oh don’t get me wrong.  I love technology and social media but the cost of entry is so low to communicate that I wonder if it is becoming a necessary evil versus necessary.   While I get some interesting content on my Twitter stream, the majority of it is Twitter Litter. Like people honking their horns in traffic that isn’t moving.  Is it really building community?  Maybe I am naive but I always thought that the more connected and stronger the community the more enlightened the society.

People always cite that social media offers the democratization of information no matter if you are rich or poor.  So did libraries but maybe in a better way because their stacks were filled with books rich with useful knowledge. I don’t think that is a byproduct of social media communities in many instances when it is based on your tweet that you are enjoying your ice cream cone.

I think the worst thing that Linkedin did was to link with Twitter so now I get the same stuff on my Linkedin feed.  If that’s what people on Linkedin who supposedly make $80K on average think is thought leadership then they are terribly mistaken.  Noise is not knowledge.  People form opinions about you based on what you say in real life and in real time.  Your boss and potential future hiring manager may be reading it. Lightweight or heavyweight?

I believe to be a linchpin you have to be the most networked person in your circle of work and life because you will be the best resourced and have the most ability to fuel change and solve problems.  You can become as powerful as a magnet.

I believe to stop being a lemming most people need to focus on a simple question.  What is the purpose of my next communication? Does it offer useful information, make a small difference, not waste my time or others or is it just drivel?  If the latter is the answer then start marching.

You can connect with Hank on Linkedin.


Follow his updates on twitter @hankblank

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/hankblank

Watch some videos on http://www.youtube.com/user/MrHankblank

Here is one on How to Rise Above the Crowd.  Enjoy.



7 thoughts on “Has Social Media Turned us Into Linchpins or Lemmings?

  1. Great post, Hank! I agree on all counts. Lots of twitter litter. Have you seen Guy Kawasaki’s feed? – gag – do 600k followers really give a shit?

    The challenge is how to separate yourself from the litter. The cream should rise to the top so they say, but that takes an immense amount of groundwork. Wait, did I just answer my own question? – HARD WORK? Damn, and I thought this was going to be easy…

  2. Thank you, Hank. We miss so many ‘gifts’ of interacting with others because we are hunched over chatting about what someone’s dog did or viewing an embarrassing moment of a ‘friend.’ I have an internal “unplugged” rule when I am privileged to interact with humans, be they Baristas or the person pumping your Oregon car full of gas. Be available, be aware, be considerate of in-person human opportunities. Thank you.

  3. Brian

    Great article, Hank. Confucius, I believe, was the author of your “stay the same” quote. I have another saying for you: Jack of all trades, master of none. Some think they are doing so much, but are really not doing anything well. Better communication always comes with less noise.

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