x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Inside social media’s befuddling world of backscratchers

Wrestling with social media, now there's a thoroughly modern occupation.

The wacky world of social media continues to amaze, baffle and infuriate me in equal measure.

Top of the list is LinkedIn, the job-seekers’ website that masquerades as a social network. I’ve never really understood LinkedIn, but rather against my better judgement, I joined up and put some (fairly bland) information up there, mainly because it seemed all my friends seemed to be doing it.

For a long time I just left it there and forgot about it, but now I get a daily reminder of LinkedIn’s presence, and my role within it, via the wave of “endorsements” that stream my way.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have a pat on the back, and many of the endorsements tend to come from old friends and acquaintances. It’s good to get a reminder that they’re still around and thinking of me, and a prompt to arrange a coffee meeting or something similar.

But after three decades in journalism it seems just a tad late for somebody I’ve maybe known only a couple of years to be endorsing my skills in the profession. I appreciate it, but shrug it off with the same indifference you give to a belated birthday card: “Well, if you couldn’t remember on the day …”

And the most annoying thing is that most of the endorsements I get are for “new skills”. At first I thought this was great, people out there were recognising my daily development as a human being. Maybe they’d got wind of the fact that my violin playing was actually coming along pretty well, or my vol-au-vent cases were to die for.

But then somebody pointed out that actually LinkedIn meant “news skill”, in other words the basic skill of journalism. Belated birthday card syndrome again.

Just for the record, I’ve never endorsed somebody back on LinkedIn, and don’t intend to either. This “you scratch my back” circle has to be broken somewhere.

Then there’s Facebook, for me a closed book. I have a page, but only ever look at it in order to follow the proceedings of the official UAE Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Club, of which I am a proud member. (Notice that “official” bit – the football club back in north London has finally recognised us as the real thing.)

Apart from that, I can honestly say I’ve never used Facebook in my life, but maybe I’ve missed out. I hear it’s getting to be quite a big thing now, even generating headlines on the main BBC news website.

This one leapt out at me recently: “Concern over Facebook edit function.” Now that’s what I call hard-hitting, sharp-end news. It could only be followed by something even stronger, maybe: “Mild discomfort over jammed laptop key”, or even “Boredom as YouTube user awaits download.”

Finally of course, there is Twitter, the micro-blogger that is gearing up for an IPO on the New York markets. I’ve gotten in trouble with Twitter before, as some readers of this notebook will recall.

It’s just too easy to hit that “tweet” button without due care and attention at the most inappropriate times and over the riskiest subjects.

But the world’s investor community seems to have no such reservation. The IPO, when it comes, is expected to value Twitter at something over US$10 billion. That is very serious money indeed.

I make this firm prediction now: if Twitter gets away at that price, and rises to a premium in the first few days of trading, it will be the clearest signal yet that the recovery in global equity markets has overheated, and should be taken as a “sell” indicator.

If Twitter is worth $10bn, I’m a banana.

fkane@thenational.ae