The Unspoken Rules of the Internet

“When someone tells you to Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, RT something, you don’t ask questions. You just, do it.”

No one ever told me that’s what I was supposed to do…and apparently there are a lot more rules I am oblivious to. I’m one of those anomalies who started out backwards. Where most people in my circle have been blogging and socially networking since the start of the Internet, I just came out of nowhere. In June 2008, I only had a MySpace, Facebook, and randomly blogged on MySpace and Facebook. I found FriendFeed by accident, and it was over – I got addicted to social networking.

This blog started because of FriendFeed, I connected to a lot of people because of the people I met on FriendFeed, but really? I love technology and I love people. The Internet and sharing what I find on the Internet is my hobby. I blog because I have a lot to say. It’s really that simple.

Doing what I love to do for a living means monetizing. And once monies get involved, it’s a whooole ‘nother world. I understand only sharing finds on the Internet and interacting with people won’t get you paid (unless you’re Gizmodo or ICANHAZ.)

But still. It just doesn’t seem right when a peer or colleague asks for Diggs, Stumbles, and Reddits. Then we Digg/Stumble or Reddit the crap out of something because (s)he asks. Heck, I didn’t even know I am supposed to have five or six accounts. Obligatory linkage is another thing I have a problem with. I’m down with reciprocation but frankly, doing the above out of obligation, even if I didn’t read, agree, or even like the post for that matter, just seems unethical.

I’ve been fortunate to have  worked in the corner of the Internet where SEO isn’t that big of a factor; mainly because these companies and brands are huge, where exposure is more important than garnering niche attention through back channels. Call me naive but when there is something universally good that people like, I truly think people just share. It’s human nature, psychology, like the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy, where something we’ve written or shared, makes another fall in love with something they never knew they wanted to see, listen to, or enjoy. And when those finds cross our paths, whether it be every hour, once a day, or maybe only once every few days, weeks, or months, we just… share.

Isn’t that how something is supposed to become “popular” or “viral?”

Well, I am idealistic yet realistic. I understand that everything does not work the same. There are things that we, social media professionals must do. Unspoken rules we must play by and support our respective networks by scratching their backs and they scratch ours. My rose colored glasses have been looong off.

Frankly, the day when Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon will become irrelevant cannot come soon enough. The more I learn, the more I understand, the more I am afraid I will end up hating what I love: the Internet.


27 thoughts on “The Unspoken Rules of the Internet

  1. I kind of stumbled into blogging and the broader context of social media via social news and social bookmarking, so I know what you’re talking about. There’s definitely a buddy system and expectations of reciprocation, which is fair enough to a certain extend, but if it leads you to be pimping crap for other people in exchange for favors they did for you or in consideration for future favors… it gets to be a huge time sink and you can lose part of yourself in the process.

    In short, I can understand and emphasize with what you’ve written here. Fortunately, there’s still lots of good stuff to do.

    1. Hey Mark, thanks for the comment and for speaking up. Most people wouldn’t want anything to do with this post, so I am grateful you contributed your two cents :) I think with people like you and I who are aware of what it can do to our characters, it’d be harder to switch over to the Dark Side, per se.

      Anyway, thanks for your comment and Happy New 2010 :)

      1. I think one of the dangers with social news and bookmarking is that there’s incentive to become the top news submitters (read: Top Diggers, as an example) and so you wind up submitting and promoting stuff that’s likely to become popular as opposed to stuff that’s of good quality. I found myself trying to pursue that for a time, but as an end unto itself, it didn’t really make sense for me to keep doing that.

        I’m certainly not above promoting someone else’s stuff, but I take more care in doing so these days than I once did. I’m also not above asking someone to share my own stuff, but I try to keep that to a minimum and also to work that I think is valuable. The reason I do that sometimes is pretty simple: no one buys the best mousetrap or reads the best free content if no one has ever heard of it.

  2. hehehe true, there is a lot of that going on everywhere.. Stumbleupon, Twitter and so on. Networking, building connections, giving favours, getting favours… all in the name of more page views. But it is important if you want to spread the word about yourself so hustle away.

    1. Hi Marko,

      I’ve actually created an account where the things I push along the back channels are only shared to those I am connected to in that world. Everything you see on my blog, FriendFeed, Posterous, Tumblr, Facebook, et al., are all because I want to share :)

      Thanks for your comment!

  3. Maybe I’m in the wrong here, but I find people who constantly put ‘Plz RT!’ after every post of theirs media whores and I find myself doing completely the opposite.

    If I like a post and feel it would be interesting to others who don’t follow that person, I’ll happily RT, Stumble or bookmark accordingly but… of my own volition.

    Organic sharing is much more fun than receiving bossy hectoring instructions from others telling us what to do.

    Or am I missing the point?

    1. Sally, I am right there with you – I do not RT when people IM or DM their blog posts with no contexts. It made no sense to me WHY anyone in their right would think it’s ok to do that…but everyone starts out from somewhere, and I need to be more conscious of sharing and linking – not from obligation, but because I like what they read, write, or share. So essentially we are saying the same thing: of our own volitions.

      Love this btw: “Organic sharing is much more than receiving bossy hectoring instructions…” Hectoring. Love that word choise and I’m stealing it ;)

      Thanks for the comment love!

  4. I keep suggesting/hoping that our B2B social internetworking will embrace the best behaviors of our F2F relations and truly personalize and strengthen our conversations. Alas, many of use default to scratching each others’ backs rather than truly adding value and content by reading and re-posting with our thoughts.

    1. Hi Lisa,

      It’s tough within any network, but especially in B2B where the interests are so niche. Hopefully sharing will become a practice adopted by the masses, and we depend on customers to spread word as opposed to our networks. At least that’s what I am hoping.

      Thanks for your comment.

  5. I’m with you. Integrity matters. I don’t even go to Reddit or Digg or Stumbleupon because every time I do, I feel like I am walking into a grade school recess. I am not an expert at branding, but it seems like the best social media people build their brands and volumes by posting great content, and letting people know about it without strong-arming people.

    1. Hi Mark, I am right with you on the best social media people building their brands with great content and subtly promoting, but when it comes to businesses and content for brands and companies, it’s a whoooooole different ball game…as I am starting to figure out :(

      Thanks for your comment!

  6. I got into the different social media things that I am a part of for the camaraderie, the sharing and for the exploration. Unfortunately, it has become a game…a game for someone to get their 15-milliseconds of internet fame for being “first” or get the most Diggs. And when it’s not a game and for real money, it’s as Sally mentioned, it’s simply about being a whore. A whore for attention; views; a wider share of the market; you name it.

    Perhaps I am naive too, but if you share and are earnest in your opinion, interests and content, it will get seen. No need to hike your skirt and be that whore looking for attention.

    /end rant

    Thank you.

    1. What’s up JA! I’m learning a lot and some of the things I’m learning, I really wish weren’t true… It’s the art of compromise and not all things are rainbows and butterflies.

      LOL @ how you ended your comment: Thank you. haha You rock.

  7. Forgive me for being completely not understanding your post…

    So it sounds like your problem is with people pushing their content on down others’ proverbial throats? By repeatedly asking to have their content spread around the interwebs (at that point basically just as a favor, because otherwise you probably would have done so yourself)..

    I find this interesting, because for all my time on the internet, social networking sites, etc (~10 hours/ day), I don’t think I’ve really seen this.. Do you see this issue a lot? If someone on Twitter did that, I would unfollow them.. (As you said with the unsolicited DM’s..)

    As for the other social sites you mentioned.. I love Reddit and am there constantly.. Logged in, with carefully picked subreddits. Most political, world news, general lolz, tech news hits there faster than any about any other method I’ve seen and on the whole, comments and discussions are amazing.
    Also awesome:
    Self posts are great, too.
    Alex said “behavior of some users on them is insufferable”.. I’m not sure I follow, but I don’t think I’ve seen that on Reddit…

    The way voting works at Digg, it seems like there’s competition to get things submitted first. I hate to play into the Reddit v. Digg war, but I honestly can’t stand Digg. The comments are meh, and it’s entirely links (which I’ve already seen on Reddit a couple days/hours before) & tons of annoying ads. Also, I can’t stand the design.. lol.

    Stumble Upon is neat, but there are no comments so I can’t imagine user problems.. It’s also pretty different from the others since Digg and Reddit are much more about “new” things, whereas SU seems to be aged from all over.. :/

    “And once monies get involved, it’s a whooole ‘nother world.” … wouldn’t clients pay you for consulting? I tend to think you get experience working with businesses by doing that, not just being a Twitter-aholic yourself… lol.

    Your post is called “unspoken rules”… so what are they? That you have to reciprocate and back-scratch with other SM professionals?

  8. Nice post and I though it was well written and well presented. I have to disagree with the comment above me saying more information is needed because I thought it was very good.

  9. …I ‘AAA’ rate this statement. You’ve taken the words out of my mouth. I like to use the Web to spread my commercial ‘Imaging Aspirations’, (it may take some time), as well as ‘learn’ & ‘entertain’ myself. If my purpose were to gather as many nuts as possible, to cash-in on the Net’s potential, I would not be using my present approach; I would be seriously bored maximizing ‘Partner Sites’ for ‘Click-Money’.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s