Social Media Is An Oxymoron


An oxymoron means that two words forming part of a phrase represent opposites or are contradictory.  George Carlin popularized Military Intelligence and Jumbo Shrimp as examples of oxymorons.  Other somewhat famous ones are Authentic Reproduction, Cautiously Optimistic, Civil Disobedience, Deafening Silence, Detailed Summary, Friendly Fire, Honest Crook, Humane Slaughter, Metal Wood, Tough Love, White Lie and the list could go on and on.

Social Media is another such oxymoron.  Media most often is assumed to be mass media such as TV or radio.  Social on the other hand implies relationships between individuals.  The masses versus individuals – there is the contradiction

The social media scale

You are perhaps unaware of the social media scale since we are introducing it here.  The scale is defined by that oxymoronic name really.  In a way the two words represent the two extremes of the scale.

At the Media end of the scale, we have the minimally social ones, which merely allow you to vote on items that are classified by the medium. Examples of this are and

At the other end of the scale, we have social media that are online spaces where you can ‘meet’ and interact with others.  Facebook and LinkedIn are examples of this.  Others will be found to fall between these two extremes.  StumbleUpon for example is closer to reddit but does provide for messages between friends.

Where Is Twitter On the Social Media Scale?

The interesting anomaly in all this is Twitter.  Twitter itself was very much at the social end of the scale in its genesis.  The objective was to let your close  followers know your current status.  Many still use it that way.

However some participants have abandoned that approach. They seek to get the maximum number of followers by following as many other people as they can.  Since some people have arranged that automatically they will follow anyone who follows them, this approach can almost allow you to create your own mass medium.

If you want to check out some data on people using Twitter in this way, check out the TwitterScore website. More specifically check out the Top Users.  There are some very famous names there and also some top agencies such as CNN and the BBC.  Scrolling down you will see some people who clearly have worked hard to create an audience for themselves.  At # 200 at the moment, for example, you have Jonathan Nafarrete, who is “Just some guy. Photographer and social media consultant” and who has 63,553 followers.

The fact that Twitter is both social and a mass media is perhaps why many people are having a difficulty knowing how best to be involved.


For a confirmation that Twitter is hard to classify on the social media scale, you may wish to read: New Twitter Research: Men Follow Men and Nobody Tweets. For suggestions on how to work with social media of whatever type, try ‘With A Little Help From My Friends‘.

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Social Media Is An Oxymoron — 19 Comments

  1. I started loving twitter media, plugins and all other supporting sites. It is just like FF, I started it just to try and I started using it permanently. I know twittering is an addiction but it is always good to have such stats in hand. I am surprised to see all those names on the list, especially Brooke Burke. Regarding oxymoron, I think there are a few of them which are perfect. All social media is still limited to some point.

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  3. Twitter should have its own scale depending on what it is being used for. It is a great example of what social media really is. If you choose to have 5 followers or 50000000 followers its up to you. I love it. Twit twit

  4. I agree, Twitter is hard to classify on the social media scale. It really depends on how you use it. It can be a complete social tool in that it helps you stay in touch with your friends but it can also be a great vehicle for news updates from companies and organizations.

  5. @Washington DC movers, You might be right but I started Twitter as my social network startup. I am now confused and desperate to know more and to research more on this.

  6. We are lucky enough to born in the era where we are enjoying all the evolving technology and systems. I think it is our own scale to rank a site as social network or just a messaging system or just to popular something. Our required results might be different but we do the same thing.

  7. Great to be in a job where you can twitter. But for millions of workers this really isn’t an option. What you have ended up with is a very insular world where everybody is following everybody else and nobody is very productive. Try asking a nurse or a bus driver, a shop worker or farmer, a builder or social worker if twitter is important.

  8. I read recently that 90 percent of new users have abandoned twitter within 3 months. As a serious social medium it obviously has fallen short. There is a certain demographic group that sticks with it and those will be the niches that will generate interest and along with that big profits who learn to convert that interest into sales. I think the current focus in advertising and public relations on social media will burn itself out. Guys like me who make a living with consumer electronics reviews are not going to get much out of it.

  9. I’m trying to make a survey like Digg’s voting system: people can contribute their own ideas to an open ended question and people can either vote (Digg) for it or contribute their own answer if they disapprove.

  10. @Graham
    I quite agree with your point.
    TWITTER only makes meaning to those who spend considerable amount of time online. For those who eek a living under the hot sun, Twitter means nothing.

  11. @Graham, You are very right but sooner or later they are going to involve in this. In my life I saw many people who are not internet junkies but they are using twitter. I think they got it via viral way and they are using it for socializing their life. I know all this world is not using it but they are going to be.

  12. I may have been a little harsh in my previous comment. That day this subject came up at work. In my “real life” working for a PR company there a a few who think that Twitter is the future of advertising, that TV advertising will become extinct as we know it. Graham is correct (i think) that the vast majority of people are busy trying to eek out a living doing difficult jobs and really don’t follow twitter. I think people working in media in metro areas like NYC forget about the reality of the rest of the world. On the other hand, it could be argued that the people who are big on twitter also have the bulk of the disposable income and the most influence on social and business change at any level. Also Chantelles comment made me laugh. She sounds so feisty and cute.

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  14. Twitter reminds me of old school (circa 1997) HTML chatrooms. All that is old is new again. However, back then it certainly was social but we didn’t use terms like media. Semantics are getting in the way, as social media (MySpace, Twitter, et al) would be more accurately termed as social medium.

  15. Hello!
    “…The interesting anomaly in all this is Twitter…”- simply twitter is free spaming tool! “…Jonathan Nafarrete, who is “Just some guy. Photographer and social media consultant” and who has 63,553 followers…”( and a lot of these is mutuall) – can somebody explain me how many hours in day Jonathan reading all messages from his followers? And answering…