The Ugly Face of Social Media.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon ~ Web-in-Travel
Friday, 3rd July 2009
I wonder if social media reached the point of diminishing returns last week with the death of Michael Jackson and the subsequent fall of the mighty Perez Hilton?

Yeoh Siew Hoon wonders if we could end up with unsocial media with the way things are going.

I ask that question because I think the celebrity blogger's fall from grace in just a matter of days could well herald the swinging of the pendulum back to some level of sanity, quality and credibility to the blogging and whole social media space.

Well, at least, I hope so.

Perez Hilton's original post calling Jackson being rushed to the hospital a publicity stunt raised anger around the world and sparked a "unfollow" Hilton campaign on Twitter – #unfollowperez. Within hours, he went from 1.8 million followers to 800,000.

Granted, he is a celebrity blogger who thrives on rumour and gossip and thus should not be taken seriously but as they say, one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch and he is one of the most high profile bloggers there is.

What his post did was to show up the ugly side of blogging – mean, inaccurate, untrustworthy, an abuse of power.

On top of that, there's the whole issue of fraud reviews on Trip Advisor written by PR and marketing people. Fraud reviews are on the rise and while Trip Advisor says it is trying to manage the situation, it is clear that the hijacking of social media by commercial interests could also create a backlash in this space.

Ditto with social networks. One reason we liked social networks was because they started out as our personal space. Then came the blurring of lines as groups began. First it was social interest groups, then special interest entities. Now commercial interests have also entered the space.

Ditto with Twitter which is now being increasingly used by PR and marketing folks.

Trust is slowly being chipped away.

Almost everyone wants to jump onto the social media bandwagon – it's the latest fad. Should you or shouldn't you? I don't have the answers, nor does anyone I know.

What I do know is if we are not careful, we could end up making it unsocial media. And remember, just as Perez has found out, just as you can have instant fame, you can also have instant disgrace.

As swift as the rise is the fall …

Yeoh Siew Hoon, one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, writes a regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry for 4Hoteliers.com.

Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her other writings can be found at www.thetransitcafe.com

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