Going Tribal? Internet Tribes

Steve Denning recently wrote a post in Forbes highlighting what he regarded as 5 reasons why Google+ was died.

In Steve Denning fashion the article was well crafted and made some interesting points. It’s not the purpose of this post to assess the merits of that article; what has intrigued me was the responses to the article.

At one level Google+ is just another social media platform, but that’s not how many of the people who use it perceive it, or at least that’s not how they respond when challenged.

These are some of the responses:

I just checked your G+ profile – 2 POSTS on G+ and that’s it? Sorry but you have no right to write blatant hit pieces on G+ when you don’t even USE the product. Just because you don’t engage with people on G+ does not make it dead. You can check the author’s G+ profile here as he was to embarrassed to link it to his profile: https://plus.google.com/112179839227533740446/posts

and

Steve, it may have been better if you did some research and reached out to the community.

This just has you looking really stupid, writing an article just for linkbait.
We have seen it so often from contributors to MSM articles.

or

The only problem with Google+ is that people like yourself don’t know how to use it. I love Google+ Like Bob Dylan sings; Some feel the rain, others just get wet.

and

LMAO – I’m just another ghost calling from the dead G+! As a ghost I find it has the most informative and well reasoned subject matter and commentary! Really fb is for baby pictures and Twitter is for abuse.

With many more to choose from; there are also a whole load of well-reasoned comments.

You’ll notice here that there are a some characteristics to these comments:

  • They claim an allegiance to a club or tribe.
  • They claim a value and exclusivity to being part of the tribe.
  • They define Steve as being outside of the tribe and hence of a lower value. This is especially true as the commentators try to flag him as a member of different tribes such as Facebook or Apple.
  • They are adamant and definitive about the veracity of the tribe.

These behaviours aren’t unique to people who use Google+, it’s a common human response. Anyone who has seen a gang at work will recognise these traits:

  • You are either in the gang or you aren’t.
  • Your gang is always the best gang and you are privileged to be a member of it.
  • If you aren’t in the gang then you are in some way undervalued, particularly if you are a member of a different gang.
  • Membership of the gang is a lifelong choice.

Steve also wrote a second article – Has Google+ Really Died? – highlighting, among other thing, the responses that he’d received:

Enge’s study also sheds an interesting light on the reaction to my article last week, “Five Reasons Why Google+ Died?” There was a torrent of comments on Forbes itself and heavy traffic on Twitter and Google+ itself.

A good part of the commentary was supportive, particularly on Twitter. The article was headlined on the Forbes leadership page and picked up by SmartBrief on Leadership.

The negative comments fell into three main categories. Some were heartfelt user pleas, along the lines of: “I and some of my friends just love Google+. How could it have died!”

Others questioned in a more thoughtful way the analytic basis for my citation of the declaration by Scott Galloway, the NYU marketing professor, that Google+ was “already dead.”

A third category of negative comments was vituperative in tone: the comments questioned my intelligence, my analytic capability, my bona fides, my work ethic, my motivations, my financial integrity and even my right to say anything about Google+ at all. Not liking the message, these commentators attacked the messenger.

The tone of these latter comments often seemed to resemble that of people defending a struggling religious cult, rather than the users of a mere software tool. Looming over the discussion, of course, is Google’s track record of abruptly canceling products that haven’t met market expectations. Is Google about to pull the plug on Google+ too? The fans’ angst is understandable.

It’s interesting that he highlights how the comments on Twitter were supportive, perhaps that has a lot to do with the comments coming  from members of a different tribe?

The Internet is littered with competing tribes and I wonder whether it’s really doing us more harm than good. I’ve done a bit of research into conspiracy theories lately and it seems that a lot of that has to do with tribal thinking – you are part of a special in-crowd if you believe something different to the mainstream. Internet hoaxes fall into the same class – how many of you have seen fake pictures of surfers at the Sydney Opera House recently? People spread them around because they want to enforce their place in the tribe that they subscribe to.

We all have a deep-seated need to belong, but I wonder whether we are allowing that to get in the way a bit too often?

We have a huge choice of tribes to join but how do we know which ones are good and constructive ones?

History has shown us that we are stronger when tribes collaborate, are there any really good examples of that on the Internet?

Sorry no answers in this post, just questions.

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