You have 0 friends

by Haris Krijestorac on April 9, 2010

South Park has recently taken another stab at the Internet in their latest episode entitled ‘You Have 0 Friends’. If you haven’t watched it yet, do so. For now, you can check out the clip below:

This isn’t the first time the show has joked about the transformative effects of the internet. In ‘The Snuke’, Cartman uses the internet to get information on a terrorist attack he suspects by the class’s new Muslim student. In ‘Over Logging’, the town of South Park migrates out west in search of more internet, since they “ran out” of internet themselves. I believe their latest episode was their most direct satire on social media. As a long-time South Park fan, I knew I had to write about it. South Park is known for integrating witty messages into its playful mockery. Exaggeration is a form of humor that the show exercises. At the same time, it uses exaggeration as a way to expose truth. While demonstrated through exaggerations, I believe the episode makes the following points.

The Value of Your Social Media Presence Can Be Quantified

In the episode, a ‘stock’ metaphor is used to measure the value of Kyle’s facebook profile. When he facebook friends a boy from school with 0 friends out of pity, the value of his own stock plummets. Everyone else unfriends Kyle and he is left with only one facebook friend himself. While this course of events seems unrealistic, quantifying the value of your online profile is not ridiculous at all! An example of a tool that does this is Twitter Grader. Furthermore, the integration of social media results into SEO has made it all the more important to give weight to opinions expressed in this medium. Social media connections can indeed be a liability. Be open, but choose your connections wisely.

Artificial Engagement Brings Short-Term Value

In an effort to regain facebook friends, Kyle uses methods that result in artificial engagement. He ends up losing the only friend he gains. Just like in social media, you can’t create friends, you need to make friends. Don’t forget that social media has changed the methods of engagement, but many of the principles are the same.

Your Social Media Presence May Have a Life of Its Own

When Stan decides to delete his facebook account, his profile takes up a life of its own (literally) in cyberspace. Does your facebook profile have a life of its own? I would say no, but at the same time it selectively represents you. People have their personal side, their family side, their professional side, and maybe even other sides. It might be awkward for me to see the private lives of my professors, because I am used to their professional side. Likewise, the children of my professors would find it funny watching their mom or dad teach. However, both sides make up who they are. In this sense, your social media identity is not equivalent to your own. It does have its own life in that it represents a person like you, but not exactly you.

Represent Yourself, Don’t Seek Social Validation

Social media can be a great forum for us to show our uniqueness. Instead, many see it as a source of social validation. The cast of South Park does it – whether it’s Kyle begging Stan to help him maintain his online farm, or Stan’s dads desperate attempt to interact with his son on facebook.

Use Social Media to Create Value, Not Avoid Work

The lesson of South Park this time: Be careful how you use social media. It can be another excuse to avoid work, or it can be a way to enhance your work. I recommend doing cool things that you like as if social media did not exist. Then publish them on the social media platforms you feel best suited for you. For photographers, Flickr can be the perfect platform for you to share your photos share tips with people with similar interests. If you’ve always felt like a talk show host at heart, make sure you check out Ustream. Quit stalking people, quit playing FarmVille, and don’t worry about how cool you look. The promise of social media is that you can share content you are passionate about and be cool with the right people. I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface of South Park’s insights – I’d love to hear what you think about the episode or the points it makes. Add a comment below and I hope we can have a good discussion.

This post originated on Marketing Information Systems, a blog by Haris Krijestorac.

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