Business

Gary Vee Claims Social Media is Exposing Us — and That Ain’t a Bad Thing!

Gary Vaynerchuk

AH, SOCIAL MEDIA. THE PHENOMENON THAT SERIAL ENTREPRENEUR, BESTSELLING AUTHOR, UNIVERSALLY-ACCLAIMED SPEAKER AND UBIQUITOUS INTERNET PERSONALITY, GARY VAYNERCHUK, HAS VAUNTED TO BE AS POWERFUL AS OXYGEN, EVEN WITHOUT OUR EXPERIENCING ITS FULL CAPABILITIES YET. IS THERE ANY BRANCH OF INDUSTRY THAT THE OUTSPOKEN HALF MAN, HALF BRAND, HALF DIGITAL EXPERIMENT — WHO WE RECENTLY PROFILED IN OUR FALL COVER STORY — IS MORE VOCAL ABOUT?

Written by Chris Metler

In his 2011 hardback, The Thank You Economy, Gary Vee applauded social media for making it possible for consumers to interact with businesses in a way that is often similar to how they interact with their friends and family. In 2013’s Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World, the chairman and CEO of VaynerX — a USD $150-million-plus media holding agency deemed one of the fastest-growing on the planet — compared it to crack: immediately gratifying and hugely addictive.

And in 2016’s #AskGaryVee: One Entrepreneur’s Take on Leadership, Social Media & Self-Awareness, he positioned certain social media services as a goldmine of opportunity for any team that wants to create real relationships and build loyalty with its young fans.

That’s just the tipping point. But lately, the escalating opinion that social media, despite its positive business and social impacts, adversely affects us has been gaining more and more steam.

Social media isn’t a new trend

One of Canada’s most widely read newspapers, The Globe and Mail, was amongst the first to blow the lid right off this can of worms. In an op-ed printed this summer, personal finance columnist Rob Carrick respectfully questioned whether the booming trend of social media posts about toys, trips and triumph symbolized anything more than privileged bragging.

He indicated there’s a line that can be crossed where the sharer comes across as excessive and tone-deaf, before going so far as to suggest the impending likelihood of backlash against showing off exotic vacation spots, fancy restaurants and the like.

Ever the contrarian — although seldom for the sake of it — Vaynerchuk contends this notion that we use social media to promote ourselves is just an extension of what we always did.

“Your mom didn’t go have tea with her girlfriend and start airing out all her dirty laundry,” he conceded in an exclusive interview for BayStBull.com. “You know, maybe with her closest friend, but we PR ourselves always. We always have. Forever.”

Vaynerchuk raises a salient point. Consider how the word ‘cool’ originated way back in the 1920’s in jazz clubs where, if you were ‘cool,’ it signified you were a person who knew how to stand out by dancing, the clothes you dressed in, the slang you spoke, etcetera etcetera. Yes, it was recognition that how you expressed yourself was unique and respected by others.

In the modern age, then, what’s really the difference between that and only frequenting establishments where you can ‘check in,’ or not being able to take a bite of your meal before first tweeting a picture? Or obsessively checking Facebook to see how many friends have ‘liked’ your new profile picture? Or letting the number of ‘likes’ your Instagram post received dictate your mood for the afternoon?

Conversely, last year on Medium, a social journalism platform, author Chomwa Shikati remarked how, too often, you encounter people on social media with double identities. In fact, he proposed a self-centred attitude and the need to be accepted and liked has led users to create or lead a life they feel will be accepted and liked by the masses. In other words, that it’s now more about social acceptance than standing out.

Again, Vaynerchuk — who counts 6 million followers strong on Instagram and Twitter collectively, in addition to over 100-million views on YouTube — isn’t buying it.

“I would argue that the Internet, technology, live streaming and photos have actually suffocated us from our ability to put on a fake front more than it did twenty years ago,” he countered. “The only difference is that we are all doing it now, so, publicly, it doesn’t go away. You posturing at the PTA in 1984 died in that room. You doing that in an Instagram photo now stays for us to be able to see.”

Gary Vaynerchuk

It’s not changing us, it’s “exposing us”

With no less than five New York Times chart-topping books to his name — all of them addressing social media upfront, as we elaborated upon at the outset — in addition to his #AskGaryVee advice show, DailyVee vlog and top-ranked The GaryVee Audio Experience podcast, Vaynerchuk’s thought-leadership on this subject is more than qualified.

Still, the growing consensus out there is that social media permeates virtually every part of our lives and not always advantageously so. That most people attach their self-esteem to their social media activity.

For his part, Vaynerchuk finds the concept to be laughable. Social media isn’t changing us, he proceeded to clarify, “it’s exposing us.” And that, he believes, might just be the greatest one step backwards, two steps forward motion of humanity at the moment.

As an example, Vaynerchuk claims the ongoing movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault which has taken the world by storm — and brought down some of Western society’s most powerful incumbents — is ultimately going to be more transformative for us than we think. “If you’re not an old white dude, you love it,” he told us. “But guess what? Every single thing you’re doing wrong is next.”

“This is just one chapter,” Vaynerchuk continued. “Every shortcoming you have as a human will be exposed over the next fifty years, which then leads to the most exciting part: that we’re going to start accepting each other for these shortcomings.”

Yes, he is confident we will have much better conversations around mental health five decades from now than we do today. “About insecurity, lack of self esteem, sexuality and finance. We are in the beginning of a much better era for the human race, yet everybody’s looking at it as this huge negative.”

Everybody except Gary Vee, that is.