Time & Distance Theory of Social Media

Steve Dahl is a well known radio talk show host in my home town of Chicago. He had a theory about time and distance related to comments and jokes. The farther you are away from a difficult moment or event in life, either in time or distance, the sooner you feel free to respond with jokes or comments that may be controversial.

For example, if something happens overseas in France, Korea, or Brazil, off-color comments will start up sooner than if that same disaster happened in your home town. Locally, the common courtesy is not to tell jokes for a period of time until days or weeks pass to avoid bad taste or begin a controversy.

In my last blog, I said tweeting was a good thing if you followed the right informative folks, especially in business, where companies you work with can provide information to help you succeed in your career or job. (See: To Tweet or Not To Tweet: That is the Question.)

The speed and power of tweeters was shown again to me this weekend. I first learned of the tragedy in Tucson by reading my tweets while out shopping. Sadly, a 22-year-old man shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the head and killed at least six people, injuring many more.

As the day and night unfolded, I took note of the speed and quality of the tweet and retweet content from the folks I follow that was focused on the tragedy. Ninety eight percent of all “local” print, radio, online and TV journalists, bloggers, community leaders, and regular Arizona citizens I follow were focused on this event. One TV reporter tweeted that if you went to school with the shooter you should call her phone number. I saw her later that night talking to a few young people.

It was early in the evening before I noticed people saying basically that if you were not tweeting on this situation… “shut up.” Still, a few folks talked about how cool social media was and where they were eating and drinking. That alone helps me determine how stupid they are — in the old days I would say “they showed me their true colors.” Outsiders either did not care or did not dappreciate the issues involved.

Off the path a bit, I also, personally, did something like this on Christmas. I tweeted to my followers that they should not send any business and informative social media tricks on Christmas Day. Anyone who did needed to get a life and I would drop them, I threatened. I dropped two.

I learned that the time and distance theory still holds true in tweeting, which I indeed heeded. I was going to make a tweet about the NFL playoff results and a business comment but elected to wait at least 24 hours to get across those non-critical issues. If I lived farther away I would not have waited.

Thus, two lessons: Speed and power of tweeting was proven to me again — if you follow the right folks. And, in time and distance scenarios, if you have nothing to add, shut up. It's the best tweet etiquette.

12 comments on “Time & Distance Theory of Social Media

  1. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 10, 2011

    Thanks, Al, for taking a stand on telling people to “shut up.” I'm tired of social media being a self-aggrandizing tool to the detriment of being truly useful. I know that's a tough call to make–who to follow or not; who not to follow–and it's always been tough to draw the line between personal life and work life (even when we used phones as our primary communication tool.) Should taste and good judgment be abandoned just because you can broadcast your evey move and thought to hundreds of people? I think it's the opposite–the bigger your network, the more judgment you should exercise.

  2. SP
    January 11, 2011

    Agreed, if you have nothing substantial to add its better to keep quiet. Tweeter and faecbook has become like basic place to share your emotions. i guess many people update their status instead of talking to family and friends over phone.

  3. Hardcore
    January 11, 2011

    There is a rather more sinister method to all this madness….

    I recently decided to expand  the reach of a website ,  one of the methods I looked at was adding a RSS (ReallySimpleSyndication) feed, which would basically allow users to 'subscribe' to an article feed so that they could browse key headings without actually visiting the site, in  tun to ensure larger coverage i subscribed to “google Feedburner” as a way of reducing the actual direct bandwidth usage to my site.

    Google reads your RSS feed and then everyone reads google, however during the process of subscribing, the service asked if I wanted to 'link' to my twitter account.

    This in-turn gives me the ability to  'burn' information directly from website to a twitter feed ,which can then be 'consumed' by other twitter systems re-digested and then fed back as a 'twitter' feed , so not only are we now 'mixed' in with computer systems  regurgitating endless crap from blogs and websites, but the ability of google to track us has also been increased (since 'i' own my website any burn feed will be associated with that site, my twitter account becomes traceable, since the site registration is tied back to the DNS registrar.)

    So now google can track me via cookies from a google search on a subject linked back to a twitter account(google), can also see when i'm on a website (google analitics), and track any posts i may make via twitter, and has a full set of photographs of my house, plus can see when i'm at home from my geo-location with all the data they are tracking, plus see who any friends are and track business correspondence and all without my permission.



  4. saranyatil
    January 11, 2011

    exactly ! people keep updating their status according to their mood swings and they have started to use the social media to publish their day to day activities more like an open Diary. everyone gets so addictive in following each ones personal work life. 50% of the people in the world spend at least half an hour tweeting every day. it has its own pro's and con's.

  5. itguyphil
    January 11, 2011

    I was having this exact converastin with a friend yesterday. He pointed out that people engulf their lives with sociual media. We  came to the conslusion that soon, there will be networks where people can create their own live reality show.

  6. SP
    January 11, 2011

    so true hardcore. now privacy is a big issue on internet especially if you use any of social media networking sites. I was amazed and shocked when a friend of mine told me that he can get all my information including photos. I guess these social networking sites share lot of our personal information with other business units without our permission.

  7. Hardcore
    January 11, 2011

    This invasion of privacy is so bad,  that you are actually being tracked across the net even if you are signed in using one of many pseudonyms, plus your login location and IP address is also being tracked and a list of entry and exit points.

    This social media reminds me of the 'Devil' trawling for souls, you can have your wish(account), if you give up your immortal soul (allow you to be followed and tracked/sold), it is not as 'harmless' as people think.


    There may be other issues related to business use, in that many of these accounts give access to the content (check the small print), so in theory if you are discussing the internal workings of a business/product ideas/ buyouts, then all that information becomes available to the  company providing the social media account, couple that with ip & geo tracking and you can see exactly which company it relates to just by the DNS records.

    It is an incredibly dangerous tool, especially if the political winds change suddenly and allow the government access to the data & databases

  8. Ariella
    January 12, 2011

    And some people will sell their souls (i.e. surrender all their privacy) for so little.  Almost all online offers ask for a lot of personal information and access to your Facebook account for the sake of a tiny sample of something.

  9. Hardcore
    January 12, 2011

    I would be very interested in the legality of this.

    For example , if you worked at a big company and your company decides to use 'private' Facebook / twitter accounts to handle internal communication, but later you find that the service provider (under the terms of their signup, which gives them access to the material) had been using your business communication to further their own business.

    Where exactly would that leave everybody legally?, personally i'm of the mind that this could get very messy in cases where a product caused a problem but was  covered 'up'  would facebook/twitter have any legal liability for NOT disclosing the illegal action.

    Say for example in the Maddof case, if there was a re-run of this situation some time in the future.

  10. maou_villaflores
    January 30, 2011

    I think people should be intellectually enough on how to use this social media. They should not take this social medium too seriously and put all the information about themselves.

  11. electronics862
    January 30, 2011

    Social networking sites have paved the way for easier communication to friends, family, or colleagues but while social networking sites have become places for establishing connections and meeting friends, they have also become likely places for identity theft and fraud. As we have to provide certain information such as e-mail address, name, and location, others may use these information, especially when they are into illegal activities.People should make use of the pros and cons of social networking sites to take precautions in the kind of people we should trust and share some information to.

  12. Al Maag
    January 30, 2011

    well said, ditto

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