When Did Social Media Become Social Obligation?

As a writer at Ogilvy CommonHealth Medical Marketing, part of my job is to understand the usefulness of social media as part of the marketing process. Because my interest is keen, I like to consider all aspects of the platform, whether negative or positive. One aspect of social media that fascinates me is whether what isn’t included is as important as what is.

For example, last Mother’s Day I posted a photo of my dear mom on Facebook, wishing her and all mothers a happy Mother’s Day. Upon seeing this post on her own Facebook page, my wife promptly asked me why I hadn’t expressed the same sentiment to her.

“Uh, because you’re not my mom?” I replied in that tone husbands use when they think they might be in trouble for something they never considered and were grabbing a lifeline. The lifeline broke.

So while washing and waxing her car I began to reflect on the obligatory nature of Facebook posts. Am I remiss if I don’t “like” a cute photo of someone’s child? What if I’m not one of the 101 people to wish someone a happy birthday, even though I haven’t spoken to them in 10 years? When someone posts a story about a sad event, can you “like” that post, or should you express your condolences or add your voice when appropriate? Facebook has become a great way to get the update on people’s lives, but has it become as much of a responsibility as an addictive distraction?

In short, when did Facebook become the high school cafeteria?

Facebook alone is not the only site that requires care and feeding. If you don’t tweet enough, you quickly lose followers, meaning those great stories you do tweet are read by fewer people. But tweeting is not enough. You have to thank followers for re-tweeting your tweets, which are sometimes re-tweets to begin with. There’s etiquette involved.

If I don’t continue to post classic cars on Pinterest, I’ll miss out on all those great cake recipes. If I don’t update my LinkedIn profile with new information and recommendations, my presence there becomes irrelevant.

Keeping up with these social media sites can feel like a full-time job when you get home from work. So again I ask, has social media become social obsession and obligation?

The answer, I believe, lies in your level of interest and choice of involvement. Yes, it’s a good idea to keep profiles updated so people interested in your current status don’t think you’ve been doing nothing for five years. And sure, it’s fun to post on Facebook if you don’t begin to feel bound to report everything and every place you eat and every activity you engage in. Please don’t get me started on political bashing. A great way to lose friends—real friends.

Will the world end if you or your company doesn’t have 1000 Twitter followers? Not likely. As with many other interests that lie beyond the Internet (yes, they do exist—lest we become amorphous blobs attached to our computer chairs until future generations are born with these chairs as appendages), you can choose your level of interaction and stay in that zone. People will respect that. No one will judge you based on how many Facebook friends you have. There’s real life, too.

Being a social media aficionado is a choice you can make or avoid. While it’s important personally and professionally to be aware of what the current trends are, it’s not as important to be involved in every one of them.

I believe that these nuances apply to all of us as individuals and as an agency. What we don’t include in a tweet or post may be just as important—perhaps even more important—as what we do post.

Now that I’ve opined on this issue, it’s time for me to prepare my next heartfelt Facebook post. My wedding anniversary is coming up and I don’t want to have to paint the bathroom.

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  1. Robert Stovall
    Posted August 22, 2012 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    Well done, Doug. I could not agree with you more. Very funny anectdotes.

  2. Posted September 20, 2012 at 4:23 am | Permalink

    We’ve pinpointed 12 social media mistakes that students should avoid at all costs, because after all, it’s never as simple as “be responsible.” And it’s never as finite as “don’t friend your teacher on Facebook .” Social media circumstances are nuanced and vary by situation, school and user.