It’s the new disease—getting people to take notice of you on the web. I’m doing it now! You’re impressed with the catchy title, right? Whether it’s because you have a passion that you want to share, or because you simply want to make a living online, there’s an epidemic of intrusive web-junk that, for me at least, is a total turn-off.
I work for a living, and a lot of it depends on me being in touch on the web and by email. (Call me old-fashioned, but Twitter and all those other ADD-inducing frenetic devices don’t really do it for me.)
I do have a genuine interest in new ideas, how to save the planet, how to achieve peace in the world, putting right things that seem wrong, keeping in touch, and finding out what the rest of the species is up to. But that seems to mean that I’m fair game for anyone trying to sell an idea—whether it’s good, half-baked, useless or a scam.
It’s a bit like having someone I’ve never met walk up to me in the street and grind their pelvis into mine. My initial instinct would to fight them off, or at the very least suggest we go and sit somewhere (very public) for a coffee to find out if either of us really wants to get down to the sweaty stuff and share microbes.
I was pondering this New Dilemma the other day. How should we be communicating on the web, in ways that are respectful and give people what they want, while supporting needy causes and a thriving e-economy?
Our ability to be increasingly connected on the web via Ping, Twitter, Twhirl, blogs etc means that we’re deluged daily with unwanted dross. And although we may belong to 15 ‘social networks’ and have thousands of ‘friends’, how much of it represents just vague business potential or ego fodder? Probably 90%.
We’re all suffering from web-junk overload. Let’s simplify and use the incredible power of the web for useful things. Maybe we need a new web etiquette.
Here are some ideas. I’d love to hear yours.
On the web:
1. If you have a cause or want to build a social network, make it very clear what it’s about, what its purpose is, what people you want and what you want them to do. However well-meaning you are, you will only truly succeed if you identify and communicate what those terms are. Then you will attract more discerning members who are much more likely to contribute in a constructive way, rather than just make up numbers. And if I am invited to any more business groups that tell me they are going to solve all my networking problems, I think I’ll throw up.
2. Let’s ditch all the fake niceties. They just waste time and space on the web. In business, it’s the preponderance of effusive endorsements – for products, but also increasingly for people on social networks. If something is good, I’ll find out when I buy it, and to get me to buy it, all you have to do is tell me its features and qualities. I’m fairly intelligent. I can make up my own mind if I want it and I don’t need Ted in Idaho to burst with excitement over it on my behalf. Thanks all the same, Ted.
With causes, it’s the gooey sayings and cliché-ridden images that are somehow supposed to move me but frankly put me off and trivialize the issue in many cases.
On social networks, it’s the peddlers of ‘live your dream’ schemes and the scourge of MLM. All seem to be saying the same thing, and those that I have dipped into seem particularly weak despite surprisingly large followings of adoring fans. It boggles my mind, but I guess some people get something out of them. Don’t talk to me about MLM. That’s a big subject – for later.
In short, replacing all the fake niceties with constructive and critical conversation would actually help everyone move forward rather than wasting their time on trying to create the odd quick fuzzy feeling. That way, we can actually get past the BS, and find out how truly marvelous and valuable people really are.
3. What the hell are Facebook apps for? Junk the lot. I don’t know about you, but my favourite button on Facebook is ‘Ignore all’. Surely we have more to do in life than fritter away hours on virtual teddy bears, deciding ‘who’s hot’ and mind-numbingly boring quizzes?
4. Keep it simple, work out your message and communicate it clearly. I have neither the time nor the inclination to find the odd nugget hidden under layers of web-cleverness, e-diarrhea, bad navigation or techno-speak.
1. Don’t use ‘Trash Phrases’.
These are phrases that, as soon as you read them, you hit ‘delete’ because the credibility of the sender has just evaporated into thin air. Phrases such as ‘an unbelievable offer’. Thanks for letting me know, I don’t believe it either. Trash. Or, ‘a friend of mine just told me about this great….’ Well, I don’t know you, and you are spamming me, so I certainly don’t want to know your friends. Trash.
2. Don’t try to sound friendly when you have no frigging clue who you’re talking to, among the thousands of names in your database.
You know the incredibly annoying style: ‘Hey (your name inserted here)! How are you doing? I’ve been so busy/I’m so excited to tell you/ I’ve got this great …..’ Trash.
3. Keep the toilet roll for its intended purpose.
The trouble is, people who write emails these days seem to think everyone has either a very short attention span or problems with their eyes.. Short lines, spaced out for mile after mile of crass sales pitches that will give you cramp in your mouse-wheel finger. Trash.
4. Don’t use ‘seduce and entrap’ methods.
The trouble with these is that you’ve given away all kinds of info about yourself by the time you find out what they are. The format goes something like this: The email says ‘have a free xxxx,’ and usually applies a bit of silly pressure like ‘for a limited period’, or ‘you have been specially chosen’ devices. Click here. So you click and fill in your details. Then you get that sinking feeling. It’s not free. Well, it may be, for a limited period, or maybe the basic (useless) version is free. Trash – but send an email to get removed from their database first.
5. If you send out personal emails trying to sell me something, be prepared to deal with responses personally. Talk to me like a human being, answer with a real email, and don’t insult me with automated emails telling me you are too busy because you are so popular/successful, or divert me to someone in a bed-sit in Mumbai. Trash. Tim Ferris, please take note!
If you think all this sounds a bit negative, just imagine how much more peaceful our lives would be if these suggestions were implemented. Think how much more focus you could have, and how much of your time on the web would be used constructively. And think how much more likely you would be to build meaningful, respectful friendships and other relationships that would actually yield something more than vague promises of e-salvation.
We don’t have time for the crass, the insincere, the lies, the aggressive, the ineffectual. Life is too valuable and it flies by all too quickly. Surely we can do better by making time for real relationships, built on respect, trust and love. Slowing it down, making eye contact, simplifying. Getting truly in touch with ourselves and each other, being real.
Give me foreplay – we really should get to know each other better, first, then good things can really start to happen!