About Unsocial Internet Gurus and Their Cyber Groupies


By Manie Bosman

Much had been written about the way “social media” has and is changing the way humans communicate, socialize and interact in general. Critics warn that technology-based virtual interaction is de-humanizing us as we’re losing our social skills and in some cases even our fragile grip on reality. Proponents point out that it’s a transitional process which has not been fully explored or developed for a long shot and that the best is still to come – that the global human society is becoming progressively more “communal” as we blog, tweet, text and post our holiday photo’s on Facebook for the world to see.

If by now you’re suspecting this is a discussion on the pros and cons of social media – it’s not – I’m only setting the stage for my real story: the emerging phenomena of larger-than-life internet gurus and their grateful cyber groupies.

When I first discovered the virtual wonder of being able to connect with people all over the globe through social media, I was an immediate convert. Even more so when my circle of connections (“friends”, “followers”, “tweeps” and others) included renowned experts and respected colleagues from the various fields and professions in which I have an interest. How great is it for someone sitting here on the southern tip of Africa to be able to have direct contact with leadership professionals, authors, scientists and even “normal people” on just about every corner of the earth? We read each other’s blogs, share ideas in LinkedIn group discussions, tweet links to interesting research results, recommend helpful websites, and sometimes even conduct formal interviews or social chats via Skype video calls. Or do we?

While most of us could probably answer “I do” with some degree of honesty, there’s an emerging population of internet gurus who definitely doesn’t. Clearly in an elevated virtual dimension of their own, these esteemed and revered larger-than-life experts use social media simply to bless their devoted networks of friends, followers and tweeps (collectively “cyber groupies”) with a continuous stream of wisdom, insights and quick-fix formulas all directly extracted from or linked to their next best seller or upcoming television interview. Two things these eminent sages have in common is the high volume of content they churn out and the fact that they never allow the interaction to become real by responding to a direct enquiry or participating in an actual discussion. Some use applications such as Socialoomph.com for around-the-clock automatic tweeting to make sure their unsuspecting groupies in other time zones remain enthralled. Others hire social media ‘marketers’ to post their ever-so-impersonal-personal content onto LinkedIn groups, Facebook fan pages, blogs and other platforms.

Now don’t get me wrong – some of this content really is good – even brilliant, and I really love living in a time when resources such as these are so readily available. Also, I realize that some individuals really are the product they’re promoting and that people connect with them without expecting a weekly “kumbaya” around the campfire. However the point I’m pushing is that perhaps we need to make a distinction between marketing or content creation and real interaction. It is my opinion (as an unintended but not ungrateful cyber groupie to some of the planet’s greatest gurus) that blatantly (ab)using social media to drown people with your unilateral stream of self-promoting, revenue-generating content is just not on. While social media is an exciting new marketing medium we could help protect its bona fides by at least being clear and honest about whether we are marketing or truly interacting when we engage with one another on these platforms. Personally, I hope to continue using social media to promote what I have to offer on a professional level, but to keep it real enough so that authentic interaction will always be possible…. Okay, if at some point in future I fail to do so, please send a direct mail to my agent or social media consultant.

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About Manie Bosman

Manie Bosman is Founder and CEO of the Strategic Leadership Institute. He is a leadership development consultant specializing in the emerging fields of neuroleadership and neurosafety. Based in Pretoria, South Africa, Manie has more than 20 years of international experience in cross-cultural interaction, diversity management, change management, public speaking, communication, corporate training and team development. He holds a Masters of Arts in Organizational Leadership and believes that effective leadership is the key determiner of success in any venture, group or organization.
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2 Responses to About Unsocial Internet Gurus and Their Cyber Groupies

  1. John Brandow says:

    Very interesting article. I have embarked on a project about facebook to determine exactly what I want from that specific social media medium. What am I (personally) doing there ? One of the things I have found with facebook specifically is that people on there (Your friends) all to a great extend have tunnel vision, are inwardly focused, and do not really interact. They do not comment on each others posts, post a lot about things important to them, a lot of junk and some are posting continuously about a specific subject ( Christians are the main culprets here) etc etc.
    My project is focused on trying to create some sort of “tunnelvisionometer” if you understand what I am saying. I am collecting “friends” and eventually will be dumping a lot depending on the outcome of my “tunnelvisionometer”

    I have written a blog about what I call Americanization which has to do with the so-called experts that as you say churn out information as if it is some extruding machine. The problem I have with these gurus is that they do not have the capacity to communicate to right brainers and write pages on end trying to get a single point over. Once you have read the first paragraph and skip to the last one and you cannot get the message dump it !

    I love your blog and articles !

  2. Manie Bosman says:

    Thank you John – I would be interested to learn more about your “tunnelvisionometer” and the results of this project. I think one of the challenges regarding the future of social media is to discern between its various functions – (1) providing information, (2) marketing, and (3) socializing. Neither of these are “bad” or unwanted as such, but then we need to be clear about what our intentions are when we engage on these platforms. I suspect if we fail to do so, the integrity and authenticity of the medium might be compromised over the long run.

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