Social Media’s Fatal Flaw

This morning, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails wrote a long post on his NIN forum about why he is going to be leaving social media.

In the last number of years, NIN and Reznor have led the social media charge. They ditched their label, created one of the best ARG’s out there and have been active in forums, Twitter and any new technology that helps them connect better with their fans. Like Radiohead, they released one of their albums via the web and allowed users to pay what they felt it deserved.

When I think about social media, NIN is always one of the brands that first comes to mind. They’ve been there, connecting with their fans on a one-to-one level, personalizing the converastion, giving access to everypart of their everyday lives. A dream for a hardcore NIN fan.

But not for Trent.

For every 100 fans, followers or comments, there are always 3-4 that go over the top. They might be racist, they might be sexist, hell, they might even be death threats. Fact is, there are psycho people out there and the anonymity of the web allows them to say and do whatever they want. You can try to get rid of them – cancel their profiles, ban their email addresses, restrict their access. But they create another profile, they sidestep your best efforts and they do whatever it takes to ruin a great discussion.

Why? Because they don’t have lives. They are, in the truest sense, sad losers. And Trent has had it with them:

“I will be tuning out of the social networking sites because at the end of the day it’s now doing more harm than good in the bigger picture and the experiment seems to have yielded a result. Idiots rule.”

This is the dirty secret of social media – the ability to be anonymous. To say what you want without consequence. To be whatever you can’t be in real life. In some cases, it’s a good thing but in most cases, it allows a-holes like the ones who eventually rode Trent off social media to run wild doing whatever they want.

Is the solution networks that verify identification through government issued ID? Maybe.

But for now, social media has a problem and only a few people have spent enough time in it to realize the extent of it. We just lost one of them.

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