The Biggest Leak: Social Media
Wednesday, 4 April 2012
Web 2.0 started off optimistically. It was supposed to be the ultimate form of mass media communication. The first stage was broadcasting, which was one to many – think early TV and radio. This evolved into narrowcasting, which was one to few – think Sky or cable TV with hundreds of channels.
At the beginning of the web’s existence, it was perceived as just another form of narrowcasting; each website a tiny individual “channel” disseminating information about a particular niche interest. The difference with the web was that we – the audience – could talk back. When the talking back part was finally realised in the form of “social media” sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter, a new era was born. This was Web 2.0: communication from many to many.
The optimism was understandable. People could form interest groups where geographical constraints were no hindrance. These “global villages” would make up a brave new world where exchange of information would bring about the apotheosis of human culture.
What a shame it is that, most of the time, we all talk a bunch of crap.
And so it is with Facebook, Twitter and all the rest. As I battled my way into the cash at the Unibet Open Prague last month, I tweeted and Facebook-updated my chip counts, the chip average, the number of players still in, who was on my left, who was on my right, and whether I was going to have a beer in the rooftop bar. In previous tournaments it felt like my duty as a Unibet Ambassador to do so. However, in Prague I was a free agent, and as I tapped away my updates I found myself asking “who the hell cares?”
Sure, I have a few friends out there who do care (and some of them were kind enough to lend their support by messaging me back), but they would have find out soon enough, even had there been no state-of-the-art, user-definable ticker tape system to address them of the facts. Another min cash isn’t news – we don’t really need such a powerful system to disseminate such mundane information.
That, in its essence, is the problem here: none of this stuff is news. Web 2.0 – and all its promises of fame, infamy and adulation – basically rides on the coat tails of a previous system’s glory. In the days of broadcasting, air time was a scarce resource. If you made it onto the TV or into the newspapers, it implied that you were something special. After all, if information about you required such a large and powerful speaking device – a megaphone, if you will – then you must be important. The process was circular, and many careers flourished as a result of it.
Having grown up in such an era, we’re still hard wired to think that this resource is precious, but these days it’s cheap as chips. Not only can any old schmuck create his own “air time”, but he’s also the writer, producer, actor and director to boot. Hey presto! Anyone can be famous.
Now the cost of the resource – the cost of disseminating information to the masses – has gone through the floor, the real cost of Web 2.0 is our own precious time. For a couple of years social media became an addiction for me. I would find myself checking my email, then twitter, then Facebook even after I had sat down at the end of a day to relax. The big problem for poker players in particular is that there is no way to split up work and play in this world. As online players the computer is already switched on and we’re communicating in this way as part of our job. It’s often very hard to sift out the wheat from the chaff.
To help with this I want to provide a brief list of dos and don’ts to help poker players try to reclaim their lives from this ravenously time consuming monster.
The rule of “IDC” (“I don’t care”)
Before you post something, ask yourself whether anyone would care. If all you’re posting is “look at my pretty hand! Isn’t it awesome?!” you need to ask yourself whether you would be interested if anyone else posted the same thing. If the answer is no, then cut it. There’s a reason things go viral: people actually care.
The rule of “TLDR” (“Too long; didn’t read”)
Before you embark upon the third paragraph of your mini-thesis, ask yourself whether you are doing it simply to unburden yourself of a few thoughts cluttering up your head, and whether most of it is mindless bunk. There’s a reason that good journalism has principles of conciseness and relevance: even before Web 2.0, people didn’t have time to read stream-of-consciousness filler. Social media is like journalism on crack: the resources (your readership’s time, remember) are even more scarce, there’s even more crap to sift through, and it’s even less likely to be relevant than in the days before nichification. Say what you have to say and then get out. If you can’t say it well, don’t say it at all.
No bad beat stories
There’s a reason that in everyday conversation no one wants to hear bad beats. We’ve all been there, they are nothing new and they are just part of the game. The advent of Web 2.0 somehow made it legitimate to start posting bad beats on Facebook and poker forums. Once again, you’re unburdening yourself. I absolutely promise you nobody’s listening.
Someone to talk to
Online poker, despite the fact that you are interacting with dozens of other people hundreds of times per hour, is a lonely business. The one thing social media has given us is a very powerful tool for communicating with our peers in highly niche interest areas. Although Facebook, LinkedIn et al are great for casting a wide net over web, it’s the niche websites which are a cure for poker anomie. The forums of Blonde and Hendon Mob are a great place to find like minded people for discussion of hands, strategy and for exchange of information. However, I think it’s best to take it one stage further and enlist in one of poker’s online communities, such as Black Belt Poker. Only where the sense of community is so strong do online avatars actually become real people who (Shock! Horror!) can actually meet up in live events and get a real sense of community. Social media is in danger of losing its humanity without sites like this.
Don’t be an addict
One of the biggest criticisms of broadcasting was that it was lowest common denominator: because you had to encompass the interests of millions of people in one show or article, it had to appeal to a broad audience. Web 2.0 was supposed to consign that to history, but ironically it’s made it worse. Because the compulsion to check one’s twitter or Facebook feed is so great, one finds oneself mindlessly trawling through hundreds of posts, desperate to find one which is relevant. Once again, remember that nowadays it’s your time which is the scarce resource. Respect that by being diligent with it and apply rules of IDC and TLDR in reverse: is this relevant/important to me? How much of my life it is taking up?
Have some down time
One simple way of beating the addiction is to cut the time spent on social media. Try not to look at your feed first thing when you wake up or last thing at night. Go for a walk outside and smell the roses – either literally or metaphorically – rather than finding out exactly how much of a good time some D-list friend of yours had last night.
If it’s such a powerful tool, use it
Another major criticism of broadcasting was that it was passive. The image was of the quasi-State apparatus feeding the masses content while they passively consumed it on their sofas. Web 2.0 was supposed to destroy that apparatus, but instead it’s just replaced it. Now we passively consume a stream of rubbish from our friends and not-so-friends. Use social media. Whereas once it would have taken an introductory letter and anything up to an aeroplane flight to contact our heroes and mentors, now a friend request, a post on a forum, or a tweet might be all it takes. Get targeting. It’s unbelievable how many fantastic resources there are out there for a budding poker player; stuff that can take you from a neophyte to a pro in a few months; stuff that would have taken years to find and take advantage of only ten years ago. Make sure your up time on the web is good up time. And when you have down time, use it to relax your muscles and your mind properly rather than spending it hunched over a laptop in the darkness!