Friday, August 3, 2012

Elitism and Social Media… Yes I Said That! #ILSHRM12 #ILSHRM #SocialMediaLab #SocialHR #TChat #SHRM #HR

The world in which we live thrives on hierarchy.  Anything that is organized whether it be a company, association, family, social club, classroom and sports team functions on hierarchy.  It provides us with a sense of organization; the feeling of comfort knowing who is ultimately accountable for what.  What if we did not have hierarchy in organization?  Perhaps you would have chaos, lack of productivity, inefficiencies, ineffectiveness and so forth.  Or perhaps not, but all I have ever known growing up and working in the Western world is exactly this. 

Let’s take this one step further!
We all know that there is much MUCH more to organization than hierarchy.  How about culture, values, interpersonal relationships among peers, politicking, the rapid meshing of work/life, religion, gossip and communication styles?  The list goes on.  Organization is probably the most complex thing that I have ever encountered in life.  It’s a jungle out there to thrive, or survive.  It’s fierce and the competition is only getting stronger.

As human beings we work (well most of us do anyway) so we can earn an income so that we can live, enjoy life and provide for our families with food, shelter and basic necessities of life.  We progress through life as members of various organizations with many objectives.  In the organization of work I would argue that the fierce competitiveness has triggered natural responses, actions and behaviors in people that mirror that of an elitist.

Yes, I said ELITIST!
I typically don’t like getting into definitions but the word elitist refers to those people that gravitate or associate themselves with an elite.  By virtue of position, status, education and the like, elite’s exercise power or influence over others. 

As I mentioned we live in a highly competitive world, and within organization it’s a natural human response to both want to do well and do things that would allow and enable us to do well.  In hierarchical structures we look upward to those who possess more power than us.  What we do in the eyes of those with more power than us could have a huge impact on how successful we become within an organization.  Of course there are always extremes but for the most part we behave and gravitate toward elite’s. 

Throw in social media…
It’s taken me awhile to get to this point where I am talking about social media.  In fact it has been a common theme lately with me blogging about various topics—just bear with me!  JJ  What has happened with the emergence of social media is the complete, or close to complete, shattering of everything I said above.  Elitism does exist on social media but has been drastically minimized and marginalized; its power, influence and impact.  What I mean by this is any one person can start building relationships with people across the globe curating awesome content, ideas and thoughts while slowly building their influence within the social space.  A core value has emerged within social media, which is audiences placing huge value on quality content and thought.  People gravitate towards others who a) show a genuine interest in them, and b) contribute awesome content by way of a simple tweet, blog post, Facebook conversation, active LinkedIn group participation and so forth.  Who cares if an awesome tweet came from Richard Branson or some guy off the street?  If the content was awesome it’s rewarded, simple. 

How about the example of Charlie Sheen?  He’s a celebrity, also elite according to our Western cultural standards (i.e. placing celebrities in an elite class of their own).  But within the social media space, his celebrity status matters very little, in my opinion.  I don’t follow him on Twitter, nor do I want to follow him.  I simply don’t want his poor quality tweets clogging up my Twitter stream. 

The moral of my “kind of story”!
In my bold opinion, No longer does status or elitism matter within the social media world.  What really matters are things that should matter; authenticity, real relationships, quality content, idea sharing and curating, pushing your own boundaries from a learning perspective and so on. 

I may be out to lunch… BUT…
I am really interested to see the reactions and comments to what I talked about in this blog post.  I feel pretty strongly that with social media being so unbelievably fantastic at bringing communities together who share common interests and standards, the traditional power usually possesses by elitists is being challenged.  And… I love it! 

About the Author: 

Jeff Waldman is Founder SocialHRCamp, COO SocialHR
Jeff is an entrepreneur, ideator, social HR strategist and HR practitioner who has worked with a variety of organizations from start-ups to large multi-national corporations.  He currently works with organizations and their HR teams to strategically leverage social media to create and drive unparalleled business value.  
Jeff recently founded SocialHRCamp, the first-ever global HR UnConference, which provides HR practitioners around the world with an incredible experiential learning platform to kick into high gear their social HR journeys.  He is an avid blogger, speaker and advisor on topics relating to diversity, social HR, career management, personal branding and leadership.