A general rule of thumb that has helped me maintain perspective is that, given enough time, you are either proven to be an idiot or a genius. A corollary to that law is that you will eventually reveal your true self on social media.
This brutal reality applies to aging bloggers, Twitter gurus, and influencers. It doesn’t matter who you are, how many degrees you have accumulated, or how many books you have written. And this is even true for the seemingly invincible of them all — the billionaire. Even the richest man in the world isn’t immune from echoing his limitations. You will almost always reveal your limitations and eventually lose that special sheen.
For eternity, we have seen success, and financial security as a shorthand for visionary and expert. Nothing echoes smarts louder than the number of zeros in a person’s net worth. Just as people wanted opinions of the kings and the royals in the past, industrialists and newly minted billionaires are viewed as folks with all the answers.
Of course, in the past, this idealized perception could be maintained through the carefully choreographed manipulation of the media. The British Royal family has done this by carefully engaging with “royal correspondents” in newspapers and television networks. Today’s royals — let’s face it, it is mostly tech billionaires — however, are different: they need to expound on everything, everywhere, all the time, or else they are forgotten.
Attention — rather need for attention is an addiction.
In the technology industry, if you don’t have attention, you are not relevant. And there is nothing scarier than irrelevance in Silicon Valley. It is like a Hollywood star losing their good looks. Ignoring someone in tech is essentially triggering their worst fears. Hence, the need to be in the spotlight and get attention. And control the narrative.
And nothing helps with this more than social media. This is the ultimate version of sources going direct. Over a decade ago, I pointed out, “there is a blurring of the line between what is news and what is a tweet, photo or a blog post. In other words, it is a kind of mosh pit of data and information.” Now we are living in a metastasized version of that observation.
Thanks to Twitter punditry, it doesn’t take very long to find out who is or who isn’t a genius. Abraham Lincoln, a long time ago, said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.”