A Device to Give Voice – Follow-Up On Followers

Turns out there was an article in the New York Times (10/4) by Brian Stelter titled “Not Waiting for Pundit’s Take, Web Audience Scores the Candidates in an Instant,” that was similar to my blog, “A Device to Give Voice.”

Because I consider this phenomenon a sea change in how leaders and followers, experts and know-nothings, relate, I want to add to my own piece some of Stetler’s points. Each underscores my overarching argument, which is that people in positions of authority, in this case experts or talking heads, are obliged now to share center stage with ordinary people who have no claim to fame other than their own personal opinion.

Stelter makes the following points. First, the recent surge in so-called second-screen behavior was on display from the first moments of the presidential debate, and lasted throughout. This was in evidence on well known social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter (which barely existed in the last election!), and on some of the newer apps promoted by different media companies. Second, the instant feedback served to harden what almost immediately became the conventional wisdom, that Romney was strong and Obama weak. Third, the television networks that until only four years ago had a monopoly on pre- and post-game shows, themselves tapped into second-screen behavior.

Finally, and most importantly. Stelter writes that “many of the reactions were cynical, particularly on Facebook,” where users “accused both candidates of dodging questions and lying their way through the 90-minute session.” This is the kind of thing I write about in my recent book, The End of Leadership. It’s a curious phenomenon, difficult to pinpoint because the increased cynicism is difficult to measure, and impossible therefore to contrast to what was, say, a generation ago. Rather such cynicism, or skepticism, is in the ether; it’s part of the zeitgeist. However what we do know for certain because it’s easy to see is that by giving everyone a voice, social media elevate followers and diminish leaders. No wonder even presidents and prime ministers find leading is hard. No wonder NBC anchor Brian Williams added to his CV – he became in addition to newsman, a comic. .

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