The ego is the first instrument of manipulation on social networks
The biggest vector of manipulation isn’t fake news, algorithms, or sneaky platforms. It’s our own ego, as we see it every day on social networks, and especially on Twitter.
Horror: Facebook manipulates us without our knowing it by playing with our emotions! It’s a fact, I’m ironic, but I had it soon enough noted and denounced. This, before researchers shed light on the very elaborate device to monetize our affects.
But technique does not explain everything. We quickly exonerate ourselves from our faults by an external cause. I did not know, I do not act myself, I was manipulated …
It is, moreover, the role of judges to assess the part of freedom in our actions and consequently, the part of the responsibility which results from it.
There is an inexhaustible source of manipulation qYet it is based on our deep freedom: it is called ego, pride, vanity.
Fierce competition to emerge between hypertrophied egos
It works particularly well on social networks, the main arena of this attention race. Social networks – and Twitter in particular – are the favorite places of this fierce competition to emerge between hypertrophied egos.
First, only a minority of French people have a Twitter account (5% of the population according to this 2013 study). Well, ok, it’s totally dated.
The problem is that for a while, Twitter no longer communicates its subscriber count, but its monthly active users, with exceptionally well-maintained blur.
One thing is certain: a large majority of the few 10 million French users Twitter officials (see graphic below) only do read the published content, without speaking publicly. This is already the case for the majority of the hundreds of journalists that I train each year. So, for the rest of the population, this use is necessarily even more marked.
All this, where did it come from? There is an over-representation of the same on Twitter coming, mostly from the dominant social class.
No wonder that. Those who express themselves are – by cultural selection – those who trust themselves the most, those who have overcome the incredible anguish of exposing themselves to criticism from the multitude.
They – very often – received from their environment, from an early age, the certainty that they were interesting, intelligent, even better than others. Self-confidence is not an innate virtue, it is only the result of positive social interaction.
Which student speaks in English class, making the effort to pronounce his text with the right accent – at the risk of sounding like a big bean, or even a “baltringue who plays it” – if not the one who cannot lose (neither his self-esteem, nor that of those who matter to him).
Who, if not the one who is stuffed with confidence, knows that he has everything to gain in the long term, on the contrary, from this relative endangerment of his public speech?
Rankings of influencers: the vanity trap
Twitter is therefore full of these dominant profiles – which are also very often found among influencers, since it is necessary to speak often to have a chance to emerge.
But, there is also another category of actors who proliferate on social networks: those who would like to exploit influencers, and divert the strength of their personal brand to their ends. Certain brands, com or PR agencies, and especially a crowd of “wannabies” eyeing the personal branding cookie.
This is not new and was already practiced in blogging days. Make an influencer ranking and publish it by copying the people mentioned.
You can even realize a live ranking of the most active Twittos during a conference, to hope to see these same influentials gargle it afterwards and thus make you free publicity:
Thus, you are sure to be relayed by the powerful you flattered, recovering gleefully reputational fat on their backs. Better yet, you place yourself symbolically above them by taking the comfortable posture of the referee.
The manipulation is clever, because it is largely consented. Being part of a ranking is also a way for applicants to boost their notoriety and credibility even more. At least they believe it, because these rankings are in fact of no value, except for those who are happy to be included in them.
No offense to those who play the Coué method to continue to contemplate the navel.
A rather vicious social trap
But how can you not thank those who put you at the pinnacle? How not to retweet the one who compliments you?
Here lies the excruciating dilemma of moderately proud Twittos.
- If I RT someone who panegyrizes me, I look like a fat guy.
- If I don’t recognize him, I am ungrateful. It is not very Christian.
The solution for well-educated tweeters is found in the “like, but who can seem cold, even haughty. I saw you, I take note of it, from the top of my tower of inaccessible “influence”.
In all cases, the classification or the compliment is therefore a trap for the one who benefits from it.
It is true that humility, Judeo-Christian discretion is really a value in perdition, so much is it a brake on professional ascent. Very poorly informed is someone who has not understood that it was at least as important in business to let people know as to do.
And some are masters in the art of highlight their small successes to turn them into Herculean exploits. When they don’t take credit for others. I’m sure you’ve got somebody on your mind right now?
Social networks ultimately only sanctify this state of affairs, accentuating it considerably all the same.
Would it occur to an employee to rush over to his colleagues and yell at them, “Did you hear what this ranking / person said about me?” He says I’m great! “.
Yet this is what the RT corresponds to an information that ranks you among the influencers, for example, but the cases are not lacking:
The making of the inter-self
We also see a third case. The ranking or compliment produced by another influencer. So here we are in an exchange of good practices: the mutual reinforcement of his personal brand.
We very often see “Firm compliments”, which artificially increase the visibility of a group of people, by the mechanism of the responses in loop which bring up each time the initial post in the timeline.
This is the case of the massive #FFs, the follow friday – Friday recommendation – addressed to a crowd of people. Crony 2.0 coupled with a collective personal branding strategy.
I always wonder what our countless silent visitors think of these public self-effusions.
Imagine that a group of 15-20 people take possession of your bus every Friday, to kiss and compliment each other endlessly, without ever speaking to you?
Privatization of public space
I’ll tell you, the rankings, the recurring and excessive public self-congratulations annoy everyone.
It is an appropriation of the common space that is similar to the one who screams on the phone in the metro. Why, if the conversation is none of my business, should I endure it three times?
Especially since there is one side: good evening poor people! Know that we will never talk to you, we are much better with friends. But on the other hand, be kind to take a good look at us and envy us, thank you.
Otherwise, private messaging such as WhatApp or Messenger seem perfectly suited to this more tribal use, don’t you?