Sunday, October 2, 2011

Jocks and Nerds

It was almost like being back in high school -- the "cool" people didn't want to be seen with the "un-cool," the jocks giving noogies to the nerds, and those band geeks like me stuck in-between with no social status at all. (By the way, this post has nothing to do with design ... please file under "Ramblings.") 

Photograph: Roy McMahon/Zefa/Corbis
I am, of course, not talking about high school; I am making reference to my recent little experiment with Klout. For those of you who don't know what Klout is, it is one of a growing number of "social media influence measuring services." In its own words, Klout is THE measure of influence. Really?! Let me tell you what bothers me about Klout and the other social media indicators out there: in a word, they are divisive. They tell the jocks who the nerds are and bid them to keep their digital-distance for fear of digital cooties. They stratify people according to their ability to influence the so-called influencers. They make those among us who enjoy social media for the right reasons (being social) doubt our worth once we and our friends are stuffed into neat and tidy high-school-esque boxes. Now, the service may not do it outright but the matrix by which they reduce you to a mere number is the world's largest schmooze-fest. 

When I started this little journey, my Klout score was actually decent, even though I had never heard of or pandered to my score. I looked into how they quantified my social media interactions and decided to play their game for a few weeks ... just for fun. Within a few days I took my very average score of 36 and power "klouted" it into a 71. That is up there with the big boys like Conan and social media celebrities. I then made the mistake of tweeting a friend my new score. They were devastated, not because my score was higher than theirs but because I seemingly reduced our social media relationship to a competition. I later found out this person had been un-followed by a group of muckety-mucks who didn't want to reduce their own scores by being associated. How incredibly juvenile. 

Though I was a band geek in school, my mother had taught me to respect people for who they are inside. My best friends were a jock, a speech club nerd, a student council president and a fellow band geek who was teased mercilessly because of his acne. They are all wonderful people with great hearts and minds; they are not numbers to be manipulated, reduced or artificially inflated. I have since gone back to my normal social media routine which consists mostly of being goofy and occasionally linking to this blog or something that is actually cool, and my Klout score is dropping faster than a high school prom dress.  One of my favorite people to follow (who has a Klout score of 15) has my attention; when he speaks, I listen. I see him as a person not a number. 

I have decided to start my own social media grading system -- I'll call it B-Dubs. If I think you are a human, I'll give you 100 B-Dubs. If I think you are an internet bot without a soul, I will give you zero B-Dubs. Enjoy the people in your path, open your ears to jock, nerd and every so-called status above, below and in-between. Life is meant to be shared and if you do this, yours will be richer.