Social media is unstoppable. I have been doing some thinking about where it is taking us, and it is clear to me that we are headed into the realm of the mega personality.
This is something beyond mere fame. A person in the news may be known to millions, but often, what do we really know about that person? Fame alone does not say much. A person with a million Facebook friends can still live behind a mask. Of course, it is the way that information is shared that is the key. Social media enables a person’s every move, and thought, to come out into the public domain. As more and more details pour out, their personalities becomes outsized.
Through the ages there always have been well-known people. The pharaohs of Egypt, the kings and queens of England, and more recently movie stars and starlets, are all examples of mere fame. What we are seeing now is an unprecedented expansion of the publication of the daily details of other people’s lives. But wait, people are not getting more interesting. In fact the reverse is probably true where a lot of what we do is quite mundane, and imitation is so prevalent and made so easy by the global networks of information that we use that it is really hard to be unique. Putting aside those quality issues, the fact is, that people simply have a lot more public “stuff” wrapped around them. Some might call it baggage. I see it, for better or worse, as their public personality.
The mega personality is something to be cultivated and managed like a personal brand, but the sheer size and reach of that brand is worth considering. Though privacy issues, and tensions between free speech and defamation, we already can see that the ubiquitousness of the mega personality is causing unprecedented social head butting. Not everyone will be famous at the same time, too many egos in the room leads to headaches for everyone. Social media is said to be a conversation, but to keep it from becoming a shouting match or an argument, as a society we need to stay on top of adapting existing forms of etiquette and developing new ones. We owe it to ourselves to publish, teach, and govern ourselves by, civility in the social media sphere.