So, a large number of the cognoscenti have gone downright apoplectic about Mark Zuckerberg daring to wear a hoodie to all-so-serious meeting of business bigwigs. The scandal. What’s next? White after labor day? Red shoes on a Thursday? How can our society survive without our sumptuary laws? Perhaps the Mayans were right: the end is nigh!
Sarcasm aside, it really does show an interesting moment about social media and its place in society and Mark Zuckerberg—for good or for ill—is its personification. Social media is not businesslike; it is not Chanel and it is not Brooks Brothers. It is hoodies and jeans. It is, by its very nature, more casual and much more direct. It is not businesslike?
But should it be? Businesses are certainly trying to make it that way. They can ape a casual voice, but they still craft their voice in the same hyper-calculated way the make press releases or invoices. Facebook, after all, is poised to conquer Wall Street. Maybe it is time to change?
I think not.
Social media is powerful because it’s direct, personal, casual. By taking away its main selling point, it can no longer do its job. It is a bit of a paradox, but being too businesslike will actually be bad for business. Companies need social media to be a hoodie.
This is not the first time that an online entity has undergone a massive change in tone; in fact, the internet itself did it back in 1993. Believe it or not, there was a time when the internet was not casual. It had a genteel, rarefied tone that was aggressively monitored by those that used it. Before America Online brought it to the masses, the internet was the sort of place where you were scolded for being rude and spam was unthinkable.
This small group of sophisticated netizens only really grew in September, when a new crop of college students joined the online world. Thankfully, this small group could be trained so that by November it was back to its lovely, Tea and Cake with the Bishop self. Massive internet access altered this forever, and now the internet is the steaming morass of rudeness and obscenity we all know it to be, a situation decried as the eternal September.
It would appear, therefore, that the same businesses which removed the class from the internet wish for it to return. As Cher lamented, however, you cannot turn back time. We have gone from an internet of white gloves and tails to ones of hoodies and blue jeans. Pandora’s Box has been opened and the Rubicon crossed. Let’s get used to it.