Welcome to the Flat Side of Social Media

Paul Bowers

I don’t know about you, but my social media feeds have been running overtime lately.  

We’re facing an information overload, accentuated by the pandemic, as a means to fill the communications gap created by sheltering in place. For a long time, I firmly believed that there was no such thing as too much information—that the more information we have, the more informed we are, and the better our decisions become. Now, I’m not so sure that this is the case.

The current overload from social media is fueling my doubt. On the plus side, content is easy to create and deliver. Everyone can do it. Plus, it’s cheap.  

But here’s the problem: “Information” on social media is easy to create and deliver. Anyone can do it. And it’s cheap. 

The information is there, but is it good? Is it trustworthy? It’s certainly plentiful, which is a problem of its own, because the time involved sorting through the increased volume presents yet another challenge.

Not surprisingly, the best, most helpful information comes from trusted sources. And this is where social media’s flat side comes through loud and clear.

What do I label as a trusted source? In the airport industry, it’s our trade associations, media outlets, government agencies, industry insiders like consultants and suppliers, and of course airport public affairs offices. The delivery mechanism doesn’t really matter. It could be print, e-mail, webcasts or social media. It’s all about the source and value of the information.

So, what’s the solution? Personally, my habits have changed. I have cut down the time spent on social media and the number of people I follow on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc. because the gems I’m mining from them seem to be fewer and farther in between. Lesson learned. Even with the exponential growth in posts, there’s less valuable information worthy of action. There are simply too many sources posting every day, just for the sake of posting. I’m also seeing companies presenting themselves as COVID-19 airport experts that, in fact, have no idea how airports work. Tactics and posts like these dilute the overall value of this medium.

Our lives will never go back to the way they were prior to COVID-19. Nor should they. However, we need to get a better handle on the role of social media—within our industry and definitely for political discourse. There’s value, but not if everyone is shouting at the same time. Who’s there to listen?

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