ALEXANDRA SHULMAN'S NOTEBOOK: Social media is turning us into a bunch of ...

ALEXANDRA SHULMAN'S NOTEBOOK: Social media is turning us into a bunch of ...
ALEXANDRA SHULMAN'S NOTEBOOK: Social media is turning us into a bunch of ...

How predictable that when the Pandora’s box of social media burst open, a seething swarm of venomous wasps would be released.

And how different from the ideal we were sold for years.

We were told that everyone would have a voice, leading to richer and more informed commentary. 

There would be objective competition to traditional media, often portrayed as being in the pockets of advertisers and over-mighty owners. 

The voice of the people would have no investment in anything other than sharing fair-minded and honest views.

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The reality has turned out to be a dog-eat-dog world where, at least in the fashion and lifestyle arena where I worked, the hundreds of bloggers, influencers and podcasters are often proving to be cannibals with ferocious appetites, each new generation eagerly devouring the previous at the earliest opportunity.

Recent victims of this are two of the early social media success stories – the French illustrator, photographer and blogger Garance Dore, and Leandra Medine Cohen, the New Yorker who founded the popular Man Repeller fashion site.

Recent victims of this is an early social media success story ¿ Leandra Medine Cohen, the New Yorker who founded the popular Man Repeller fashion site

Recent victims of this is an early social media success story – Leandra Medine Cohen, the New Yorker who founded the popular Man Repeller fashion site

I take no sides in these pile-ons – what fascinates me is how they illustrate that this supposedly brave new world is in no way any purer or kinder than what went before. In fact the opposite.

Dore, 46, who was a familiar and much-liked figure on the fashion circuit, has been called out in an article titled ‘What’s going on with fashion darling Garance Dore?’ in a small online magazine called Ensemble. 

The crime?  Her seemingly Covid-careless travel itinerary taking in New Zealand and LA, Scotland and Corsica, plus a recent vax-hesitancy post to her 707,000 followers on Instagram.

Then Medine Cohen gave an interview to fashion designer Recho Omondi’s The Cutting Room Floor, a podcast with a relatively small but engaged audience.

Medine Cohen had to shut down her Man Repeller site last year amid swirling allegations of abuse of staff, but in this interview it was the interrogator who found herself the subject of a social media storm for making allegedly antisemitic remarks, referring to nose jobs and name changes, such as Ralph Lauren switching from Ralph Lifshitz.

These examples occurred in the fashion sphere but they are mirrored all over social media.

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People hoping to grow large audiences have discovered that aggression drives visitor numbers far more effectively than playing nice with audiences eager to join an angry mob itching to be untethered.

Social media can be a wonderful and powerful tool but the increasingly common practice of so many people attacking and undermining each other is pointless, ugly, ill-informed and hugely destructive.

It takes time to build authority and trust and create a real, lasting business like traditional newspapers and magazines have done over many decades.

New media characters should beware how they use their power. Otherwise, before they know it, they will be seen as the old guard and taken down

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