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Social Media and The Community: Who is Gaming Who?

Social Media sites have been rising in popularity day after day. The underlying reason behind this popularity and increased user base is simply the power of networking and self promotion. If you have been in the social media scene for a while, you must have noticed the decline both in terms of quality and networking possibilities.

Media always seems to drive everything around us and the same is true with social media sites when it comes to the web world. As in real world media, the social media sites rarely send quality our way and most of the time we are just bombarded with nonsense that we don’t really want to know about or hear of. Anyways, in this post let’s analyze social media – the past and the present, why it has changed and who is gaming who in this cycle?

The Reason Social Media Is There

“Social Media sites exist because people want to have places where they can be heard. Many of us live in situations where we must quietly comply with the decisions of a faceless few without straying from imposed rules and regulations. Social Media sites allow us to present our creative works to an audience, discuss a multitude of topics, and learn from each other in a safe, rewarding environment.” – Mark Dykeman

There are hundreds of reason to join and actively participate on a social media site. However, in this post we will talk about some core reasons as to why we should be a part of it and why we should become social.

  • Networking: One of the core reasons for the existence and popularity of social media is obviously networking. The possibilities of making influential contacts and being a part of an ever growing network is certainly undeniable. Losing out on this opportunity will certainly hurt your business and eventually your network will stop growing, hence leaving you in a spot where you can’t really move any further. Networking is the core message and reason for joining and participating in social media sites.
  • Collaborative Effort: The other core reason that I personally find makes social media site the love of all web users is the collaborative effort. Sites such as DIGG, StumbleUpon, Reddit are some of the sites that take user submissions under consideration to decide whether or not it should be popularized. This takes collaborative effort. One user chooses to submit or discover something that they are passionate about and then shares it with their friends and all act as a team, collaborate their efforts to get it viewable by as many as possible ( this has changed in recent years and we will talk more about this as we get more into the post ).
  • Community Building: If you live in a society, it is your responsibility to give something back, to build the community you live within. And a social media site you are part of is no different. The word “ SOCIAL “ in social media itself clearly defines the fact that it is a society and to make it worthwhile everybody needs to chip in their fair share of expertise and contribution.

The Recent Changes and Their Impact

“I think the recent algorithm change is doing more harm than good. In fact from the looks of it, it’s doing only harm. If you look at the numbers here. You will see that the popularity of the stories on the home page has decreased drastically. I don’t understand why Digg would want to decrease engagement on their site.” – Msaleem

If you are an active social media user, I am sure you are aware of the recent DIGG algorithm change. It’s probably one of the most talked about things on the web lately when it comes to social media. The other site that seems to be going towards the same route is StumbleUpon, although not as heavily involved in changing its internal working as DIGG. This post isn’t about targeting digg or StumbleUpon by any means, it is just to show how these sites which are seen as the mother of all Social Media sites have taken the steps that might actually hurt the community within and their very own good.

  • Impact on Networking: Networking is all about give and take. You give a little and you get a little. It’s the norm when it comes to networking that if you want to get something you need to give something. With the recent changes made by social media sites, this has become impossible. Most users join these sites to gain popularity as a user or to bring in popularity and expose their services, blogs or businesses. It impacts networking because at one point in time, the favors are all done and we all want to do favors and earn them back as well – as long as we can. Might sound wrong but the essence of networking is to get by giving. With recent changes this has become impossible. An influential contact is only influential for so long and once the effect is gone the user is gone as well. Although it’s wrong to take this networking approach, most people do. If they can’t get anything from anyone, they tend to leave that networking circle. Why does this matter if they are not able to get anything out of it? Because most people tend to ignore the future and look at the present. This certainly hampers their future both in social media participation and in allowing themselves to be a part of a powerful networking circle.
  • Discouraging Collaborative Efforts: Since DIGG is the most talked about social media site, let’s include them as an example. With the recent change in DIGG’s algorithm it has become impossible to hit the front page. Nothing wrong with that. But, what if the post certainly deserves some attention for the content or the news for that matter? Before we could forward the submission to our friends and act as a team collaboratively to promote a story, which is now impossible. Users are penalized for having friends. This is a wrong step towards community building as the host of the community is taking steps to knock the collaborative effort down, or already has for that matter. And lately, with all the hype about Digg’s recent algorithm change it only seems to be hurting the entire community.

“Several months ago, many people reached the front page with around 70 diggs. Now some users need 350. As it becomes harder to reach the front page, people can no longer depend on their submission to grow organically. Therefore, some users are becoming more aggressive in their approach and are becoming increasingly competitive.” – Reem Abeidoh

The Reason For The Change

“ As these companies grow so do their staff. With that comes a stronger and more intelligent programming crew who are able to plug more holes easily. The community must also improve along with it and we are.” – MikeOnTv

Now that we have talked and analyzed how these changes can effect the overall community within a site, let’s talk why these changes were implemented. Let’s take for example, a 2 year old child doesn’t listen to his mom. Finally, there has to be a way to punish the child for being stubborn and yes it’s a step that needs to be taken. So what can a mom do to make sure that her child behaves and starts listening to her? Two choices : spank him or show him why it’s inappropriate. Which would you chose? I hope you answered the second.

As you can see from the example above, there is a way to handle things when things go a little awry. The same thing happened in case of Digg and Stumble Upon and other social media sites. Instead of building a community and acting as a team, the users acted on their sole benefits and nobody else’s and the change was needed and expected but not to this extent. But still the change was needed, no question about that. Some of the reasons that brought about this change.

  • Spamming For Traffic: This is by far the biggest reason most social media sites have turned against their users when it comes to setting rules. More and more users joining these sites are using it for their sole benefit and nobody else. Forty thumbs up packed with a couple review can do wonders in terms of traffic from Stumble Upon and a DIGG frontpage could easily send you thousands of visitors in one day. But the purpose of these sites and the foundation of these sites aren’t built upon benefiting you, it’s built upon benefiting the entire community. I myself agree the change was needed but not to this extent. The users need to be talked to, not have their networking and collaborative efforts and rights taken away. If you build a community with a certain thing in mind it needs to rise and lead in a particular path, not deter from the core value.
  • Low Quality Content: The other reason these changes were implemented is simply because of the poor quality that are being bombarded at users by other users. As stated above, it’s simply due to putting one’s benefit before others. The change was needed but I will stress once again, it wasn’t needed to this extreme.
  • The Game: Social Media lately has become an addiction for the traffic gamblers. “Let’s try it on DIGG, if we can make it, imagine the traffic ,” this is something not very uncommon when it comes to bloggers and webmasters. Social Media is being gamed and the changes are hurting not just the sites but the community itself. It’s being gamed by few and the entire community is paying the price for it.

Who is Gaming Who?

“ I am not sure what is considered gaming these days. Cultivating a pool of friends on a given social media site is kind of the point, so I definitely wouldn’t consider interacting with a like minded community and sharing your submissions amongst each other gaming. I think the real question here is, beyond a single user creating multiple accounts to falsely inflate his voting average, what would be considered gaming? ” – Decepticrat

If this post gets some kind of exposure I am sure this will bring some controversy as posts on social media always does. It wasn’t written for that purpose, the only purpose this post was written to find an answer on who is gaming who. Who is benefiting from all these changes? Me and you as a user aren’t benefiting and the social media sites are certainly not gaining positive reaction either.

Are the users gaming the social media for their own good? Or is social media sites gaming us by making us work harder, spend more time and collaborate and work together more to get to nowhere? Who is being gamed? A question that is left unanswered…Looking forward to your views and may be an answer that might make me think otherwise. As of now, Social Media and the community that lies within are sinking and they are sinking fast.

It’s your turn to talk. How do you think Social Media has changed in recent years? Who do you think is benefiting from all these changes? Share your views, your concerns and opinion. Let’s talk!

Note: Digg is holding a town hall meeting this Monday, May 12th. Details can be found here


  1. James Chartrand - Men with Pens Says:

    Honestly, I don't care about Digg or most social media sites. A social media site often seems rigged and gamed, and like all fads, it's hot for a while then tapers off.

    I do like Twitter, though, and for one simple reason: Community. Interaction. Breaking the Isolation. Oh, and the business benefits, too. (There. That's four reasons.)

  2. Jon Phillips Says:

    Hi have to agree with James about Twitter, though I do care about some social media sites.

    It's true that some social media sites seem rigged and gamed, but about being hot for a while and then tampering off, I'm not sure about that, I mean Digg was launched in 2003 (correct me if I'm wrong) and it shows no sign of slowing down, even though they changed the algorithm Digg still receives a shit load of traffic 🙂

    But beyond the traffic it's the content and network that's important, I've discovered many many sites via social media sites that I've never even heard of 🙂

  3. Edward Mendoza Says:

    Interesting topic, I couldn't agree more. This is why Myspace is utterly useless unless you block filmmakers(like myself), musicians(yep, I have one of those as well) or comedians. Everybody on these social media sites is pushing their own agenda, and it's obvious who isn't benefitting: the user who has to go through piles of spam and robot sent 'friend requests'.

    The fun news is it will only get much worse.

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