Far from being an open and creative playground with unlimited horizons, I sometimes wonder if the travel blogosphere, Facebook, Twitter, etc, aren’t naturally restrictive influences.
Years and years ago I remember watching, literally with my jaw-dropped in amazement, a ground-breaking new TV game show in the UK called Blankety Blank. It had a formula that is now sadly universal. The contestants had to answer a question with the same answer as the majority of the celebrity panel or audience.
“Wait!” I thought. “These people are being rewarded, not for being right or being exceptional, but for being average??!!”
The celebration of mediocrity has become commonplace and unless travel bloggers guard against it, there is a danger of slipping all too easily into a world of bland… because this is the way our Facebook friends do it, those are the subjects my Google+ circles talk about, these are the ways my Twitter friends think about that subject, that’s the way my Instagram chums take photos, that’s what my Last FM friends listen to, those are the sort of places my Foursquare friends eat, and that’s the kind of thing my blogging mates tend to write about.
We might think we are open-minded, but how diverse are our ‘influencers’? The bloggers you subscribe to and the tweeps you follow – what percentages are university/college/school educated, single/married, religious/secular, black/white, female/male, well-travelled/un-travelled, fit/un-fit, geeky/artistic, etc?
And what about the numbers? Consider social search and its restrictive influence on ‘ordinary folk’.
With hundreds or thousands of friends & followers, most of us in the travel blogosphere have a pretty broad gene pool to draw on for ideas, but what about ‘the man in the street’ with say 80 followers on Twitter and 30 on Facebook? (Does anyone know what the averages are BTW?) What happens to them when they use Trippy.com or Bing Social Search? Take a look at the demo videos on those last two examples and consider just how far ‘out of the box’ those people are going to think when planning their trips!
You can see how powerful and attractive social media is…
… for advertisers and marketers! It gathers together like-minded people in one place. “Brilliant! says Mr Marketer “If this guy likes crunchy pecan ice-cream, the chances are some of his friends will too, and I can get him to suggest to the others that they try it as well!”
But how good is it for us?
Shouldn’t we be striving to do things differently from our friends? Enjoy their company but guard against being like them or copying them?
At my radio station the ‘luvvies’ (presenters, producers) were always under pressure from the sales people to reproduce success. “This programme/presenter is getting fantastic stats. The audience want more. We should schedule something similar”. We always had to explain that, of course the audience want more – they don’t know what else there might be! Do you imagine a tv programme like Monty Python’s Flying Circus was born in the sales office or the programming office?
Why do you think cable/sat TV channels are stuffed to the gunwales with cooking/chef contests, garden/house makeover programmes, and police/fishing reality programmes? Because an independently creative mind came up with the first one, it was successful, and the drones repeated the formula.
So, who do you want to be? Captain James T. Kirk or the Borg?