The Cult Of Entitlement

25 May
2011

Social media has undoubtedly changed the way we share information and our voices, exchange our life stories, lend approval and criticism. There’s no arguing that things are different now, and for better or worse, things will continue to evolve, and at a faster rate than ever before. Of course, social media has its critics, and we are still working on translating social into business results as an industry. One thing that’s clear is that the unfettered, and oftentimes, unfiltered dialogue has changed the way we talk to each other as friends, family, colleagues, sellers, buyers. The cultural values are changing in favor of openness, honesty sharing, accountability and a greater connectedness.

I think social has done a lot for community building as it’s lowered some barriers to entry; communities are more participatory as structure can melt away quickly. They come together and disband to support ad-hoc models of conversation and collaboration. In some ways, communities are multi-platform, as well as platform-agnostic. At the same time, the lowering of barriers has weakened the ties and the loyalty that community members feel towards each other. For example, coming together for a tweetchat or a hashtagged conversation is usually a wonderful experience by which you can build real and lasting relationships with people. However, sometimes these events fall victim to unscrupulous users “hijacking” a hashtag and using it for blatant self-promotion without much concern for the community. Of course, looser connections are partially to blame, as is the fleeting nature of some social channels. As a result, lack of forethought going into tweets generates a consequence-free environment. This consequence-free environment is, of course, erroneous for several reasons ranging from personal branding to professional reputation.

I also think there’s another factor at play in addition to looseness of connections and the fleeting nature. I think that each person getting the virtual microphone is feeding into our sense of entitlement. Entitlement is one of those complex constructs that’s as good as it is bad. Entitlement helps us be the individualistic society that we are today, and for better or worse, that’s the kind of society we are (here in the U.S.). Sense of entitlement helps kids do better in society and career-wise, as evidenced by examples from “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. Entitlement helps feed the attitude “Why not me? I’m just as good as anyone else and my ideas are awesome”. This attitude is what helps entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground, and push forward in face of great adversity. It’s the fabric of the “can do” attitude that makes the world go ’round.

However, a sense of entitlement is not without faults. It breeds contempt and the “I’m more important than you” attitude that allows for behaviors like hijacking and shameless self promotion. Can we also talk about the practice of self-validation stemming from the number of followers and expectation of better service and free stuff based on such metrics. Sometimes, I feel like a lot of these behaviors are there to feed egos and create “house of cards” careers (ahem.. drive-by-jobs).

I also think we as a community ecosystem perpetuate these behaviors and are all to blame for that kind of behavior, which is focused on the wrong results, wrong behaviors and wrong metrics. We will continue down that path if we:

  1. Continue to give free stuff to people who have done nothing to deserve it;
  2. Continue to give far better service to people with more followers and higher Klout scores than people without. I’ll go on the record again to state that I love Klout for some business use cases, and service is not one of them;
  3. Continue to expect (1) and (2) by yelling, screaming and intimidation. On the other end of any Twitter account – business or personal – is a human being. That person is someone’s mother and someone’s brother;
  4. Continue to expect retweets and follows and pestering others to get them. A follow and a retweet is a privilege, and it has to be earned first;
  5. Continue collecting followers;
  6. Validate ourselves and others by the number of followers and friends we’ve collected like human trophies.

Before you start huffing and puffing that you have so many followers, ask yourself if Twitter (or social network X) went away tomorrow, would you be able to rebuild your “following” on another network. Because that’s really what matters. Well, the answer is, if you are an entitled jacka%$, probably not.

So my challenge to you is to channel your sense of entitlement towards something positive — that indomitable thirst for achievement, innovation, idea exchange.¬† Add value every day, and if you feel entitled to something — whether it’s free goods, better service, retweets or follows — make sure it’s because you add value to the ecosystem. If you build up the community, it will build you up in turn.

Photo credit: Chris Blakeley

  • http://twitter.com/xavier0912 Xavier Lambrix

    Nice post, it sounds like a ventilation of frustration? ūüėČ
    I think, in general, this reflects the fact that any social gathering (online/offline) will transform all of the time. ¬†When successful, it will transform into some sort of chaos where people meaning good automatically get “minorized” (can I use this non existing word? ūüėČ ) and people only interested in generating noise of all kind wil get on top.
    I’ve seen this happen to lot’s of online forums years ago. ¬†It¬†usually¬†meant the end of their¬†existence, it made them sort of ghost forums. ¬†This is the point where a new idea will pop up and get supported by people meaning good again… the cycle reiterates… .
    What to do to break this? ¬†No idea. ¬†I haven’t been alive long enough to know that ūüėČ ¬†“Social¬†control” surely helps, but it’s not enough. ¬†Just keep on doing good and innovating. ¬†At some point this¬†attitude¬†has to prevail. ¬†It’s basic human nature.

    • http://about.me/themaria themaria

      Haha I guess a ventilation of frustration on some level for sure. I do agree that as things go mainstream, the pureness of intent gets marginalized and everyone jumps in with “what’s in it for me” type thing. I still believe in social self-correcting though, because it has this ability to hold a giant mirror to all of us and make everything very public. What’s different between social media tools like Twitter and forums of yesteryear is a higher degree of accountability and transparency. It’s all tied to your name, and everything you tweet can ultimately be Googled, so being a d-bag hurts you more than anyone.¬† I think we need to start expecting better of ourselves and others. Even as businesses on the other side of our Twitter accounts, we are responsible for not encouraging the really unhealthy behaviors that destroy the ecosystem.

      Thanks for your comment and your insights, Xavier!

  • http://twitter.com/eliseroutledge Elise Routledge

    The bullet points, particularly 1-3 exemplified the bad parts of working behind a concierge desk at Disney World. Having to deal with these people who carried on in such a manner to your face and in front of other people made me significantly question the world I’d be raising children in 5-10 years down the track. The attitude is there because people have learnt that carrying on apparently gets results, and in most cases (at WDW) it does, because as cast members you HAD to.¬†

    In the case of Twitter, it’s easier. You can tell people reasonably and honestly that you don’t appreciate their attitude and you have the power to control who you interact with. I think it comes back to the instance that if you’re carry on like a pork chop, you’ll attract and interact with other pork-chops. Behave reasonably, and you’ll attract reasonable people. Pork-choppers won’t bother with you if you’re not giving them the pork-choppy attention.¬†

    Obviously it must be a harder situation for those in the public spotlight, but then again the handling of people who try to demean them with that behaviour will only leverage their respect in society, I think.

top