What do you know? How do you know it?
Once upon a time – roughly when dinosaurs walked the earth, in media years – you knew what you knew because a cranky, literate, funny newspaper editor told you what you knew. This goes all the way back to Mark Twain and Charles Dickens, but the tradition of the gatekeeper only recently expired.
A lot of tears have fallen over the easily predictable death of newsprint (the machines, the ink, the trucks, all that money!) but far less over the end of the gatekeeper. We love our movie images of the rough-‘n’-gruff boss-editor type, so well-played by Robert Duvall in The Paper, and of course embodied by Ed Asner’s Lou Grant from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. (Yeah, I’m old, I get it. See "dinosaurs," above.)
Who is that person in your life now? Tina Brown? Nick Denton? Some blogger who follows cat videos or hot stocks of the minute?
It’s probably your mom.
Yeah, your mom. Or your buddy from high school. Or very likely that college friend who is all amped up about (insert random political topic) and believes you should be equally angry.
You know about all this because of social media. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, all of them are moving fast into the content aggregation business, if you could call it that, in the effort to bring you what’s what faster and better. All the good stuff, no time wasted, no "media" interference.
Of course, the web is a full-on firehose of nonsense, so it needs organization. Enter the multitudes, your hundreds of social media friends. They do bring order to the chaos, yes, but it’s a highly provincial, self-interested order.
You know these folks: Mad at Obama Friend, Mad at Boehner Friend, Mad About "Mad Men" Friend, and so on. It’s a stampede of hobby horses. (Disclosure: I am as guilty as the next guy, which is part of the reason I quit.)
You likely joined Facebook, as I did, thinking it would be a good way to keep up on family happenings. You probably didn’t realize you would learn instead about the daily droppings of the Kardashians. If only you had been specific about which family!
A lot of my friends from way back (see "dinosaurs," above) get upset about "the media," which is a special treat when that’s your job. I point out – calmly, I might add – that it’s a buffet. You hang around the dessert bar all day, gorging, you’re going to get sick of it.
Social media, for better or worse, is an all-dessert buffet. A Golden Corral of media garbage, served up in heaping helpings. The only way to improve that diet is to improve your friends. Or log off.
Don’t expect anyone to change. They are who they are. You consume by choice. Same as the old media worked, just faster.
Greg Brown owns Interactive Content Partners, a provider of custom publishing services and private label content. In a previous life, he wrote stuff about people and things for money. Not much has changed.