The Internet is a Kennel

By now, many others have weighed in on a very recent online spat, so I won’t go into particulars.

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Person A, who is very well known, made a comment that devoid of context came across as arrogant. He didn’t mean it that way.

Person B, who is very well-respected (and less well-known,) wrote about how such interactions and communications can indeed breed incivility online, without naming names.

Person A wrote a scathing open letter to Person B.

Both Person A and Person B are friends of mine. Real friends, not just “online friendz,” with whom I have shared multiple meals and drinks apiece. So this isn’t about them.

This is about the lapdogs who try to curry favor with the Internet Famous.

My Brush With (Internet) Fame

A couple of years ago, I made a reference to Robert Scoble on Twitter. It was really a remark to someone else who was asking about who to follow, and I merely stated that I didn’t follow a lot of the so-called “big names.” Not because I don’t think they are valuable, but because they weren’t valuable to me at the time, and most of Robert’s really good Tweets were being re-tweeted to me anyway. (At that time, you saw all of the interactions and discussions in a user’s stream, which changed over a year ago.)

Scoble caught the indirect reference, then fired off a pithy comment to me. That’s fine. I took it in his typical good-natured spirit.

Then his Minions arrived.

I was pilloried by several people for daring to question the value of the Almighty Robert Scoble. I was asked why I think I am better than he is, and I was questioned about why anyone would bother following me.

You can’t hold Robert Scoble responsible for the actions of his throng – he didn’t call for the rain of error. And in the recent case, neither did Person A. But there is something deeper and telling about the motives and incentives for the Minion Behavior.

Yip Yip Yip

If you want a definition of Minion Behavior, think “Active Sycophant.”

If you want to see Minion Behavior in action, look at this classic clip featuring Spike and Chester.

If you want to understand Minion Behavior, you need to think about what the underlings want from the transaction.

  • Attention
    Minions often reach out to the Chosen One in an attempt to be seen. If I can only garner attention, he will see that I am a great person in my own right.
  • Transference
    A Minion who is involved in the same conversations as his idol gains esteem from being on the same stage, regardless of whether he is noticed.
  • Respect
    The Minion who does an excellent job defending his idol might earn respect, and a special place in the King’s Court.
  • Belonging
    Knowing that he is one of many, the Minion finds it safer to run with a pack in which members reinforce each other.

Yes, this is the same behavior that causes angst in the not-old-enough-for-Miley set, and the same insecurities and coping mechanisms remain with us into adulthood. The difference now is that our petty disagreements and posturing are now permanent and searchable — and the Chesters who climb the ladder of Minionhood are able to flock to any virtual street corner to regale their beloved Spikes.

(Note, to those who commented at Person A’s site. Not all of you are Minions. But a lot of you are. And it’s quite likely that you aren’t aware your participation was really rooted in one of the four motives listed above. So, it wasn’t you. Really. But please, start skinning your own cats – you don’t need Spike as much as you think.)

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Comments

  1. Ike, I like the parody. Well said! 

    Plus, anyone that brings cartoons into a blog post is a friend of mine.

    There has been lots of discusion on minions this week!!   This is just one example. Other people are talking about the Fast Company “Influence project” and how “winners” intentionally used their “Spikes” to reinforce their popularity… 

    This is nothing new, but it has created this beast of conversation and debate that I’ve grown weary of….  At the end of the day, I just want to do my work, but I feel distracted by the beast “steaming up my tail.”   It’s like this:

    <object width=”400″ height=”300″><param name=”allowfullscreen” value=”true” /><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always” /><param name=”movie” value=”

    amp;amp;server

    amp;amp;show_byline=1&amp;show_portrait=0&amp;color=&amp;fullscreen=1” /><embed src=”

    amp;amp;server

    amp;amp;show_byline=1&amp;show_portrait=0&amp;color=&amp;fullscreen=1” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowfullscreen=”true” allowscriptaccess=”always” width=”400″ height=”300″></embed></object><p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/5040406“>Bully for Bugs</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user588294“>TravisD</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com“>Vimeo</a>.</p>

    We just keep going around the ring!   I just want to do what Bugs does around 4:10 in this video.  SLAPTASTIC!

    Thanks for being objective and issuing such a memorable caution.

    – Leigh

  2. in thIA

  3. Uhhh… Sorry for the embed link. I didn’t paste that in!  I just pasted a simple link to the video, so go figure. Trying this again.

  4. I’ve experienced this kind of piling on too. Usually they do not even read the original post or tweet. It’s funny that in most areas of life people make up their own minds. About movies. Places to eat. Friends. But on the social web there is this blind loyalty bordering on religious fanaticsm. It’s amost like Hollywood fandom or something. I can somewhat understand that blindess turned toward Angelina Jolie. But Robert Scoble???

    Very good post Ike.

  5. I agree with Mark.
    While I’ve never personally experienced this, I neither Tweet nor blog, a few of the blogs I frequent have a comments section full of this kind of behavior.
    It’s almost unsettling.

  6. This is all too familiar in many circles, not just online. High school comes to mind. A few weeks ago Podcasters Across Borders (an EXCELLENT conference about content creation and community building, by the way) Julien Smith did a great 5 minute presentation that touches briefly on this topic: When All Else Fails, Have Cultists Attack (point #3). Or bond over D&D. 🙂
    http://www.podcastersacrossborders.com/2010/07/14/when-in-doubt-have-cultists-attack-a-pab2010-jolt-by-julien-smith/

  7. I’ve been caught in much the same kerfuffle (am I allowed to use that word as a non-Brit?).
    I once sent a message that I wasn’t very interested in the latest book of a particular author, but that I did like several other writings. Another author — and friend of the previous — provided a snarky comment that made me feel — and gave the appearance — that I was publicly shunning the first. I was not. I simply stated that I didn’t care much for the current writing. It wasn’t long before the minions of both began to swarm. Fortunately, I was able to clear the misperception. I think. Perhaps.

Trackbacks

  1. RT @ikepigott: The internet is a kennel. Are you a Spike or a Chester? | http://is.gd/drKjY This is so great!!!!

  2. RT @ikepigott: The internet is a kennel. Are you a Spike or a Chester? | http://ike4.me/o113

  3. Ike Pigott says:

    The Psychology of Internet Minions | http://ike4.me/o113

  4. Ike Pigott says:

    @swhitley @mjkeliher – We're all Dogs now. http://ike4.me/o113

  5. Are you calling me a minion? 😀 RT @ikepigott: We're all Dogs now. http://ike4.me/o113

  6. The Internet is a Kennel: It was really a remark to someone else who was asking about who to follow, and I merely … http://bit.ly/a9JLF6

  7. RT @ikepigott: The internet is a kennel. Are you a Spike or a Chester? | http://ike4.me/o113

  8. Ike Pigott says:

    @markwschaefer – Yip yip yip! http://ike4.me/o113

  9. His bark is worse than his byte -> RT @ikepigott: The Social Web is a Kennel http://bit.ly/bYt0Uz

  10. Ike Pigott says:

    @jenniferwindrum – I felt the same way when I finally tracked down the video for this: http://ike4.me/o113

  11. Ike Pigott says:

    "Rockstars" can be harmless and fun, but watch out for their Minions | http://ike4.me/o113

  12. @josh_m_watkins Thanks for the RT. You should check out @ikepigott's latest post on his blog – http://bit.ly/ar7jgt

  13. Dave Rickey says:

    Great perspective from @ikepigott – The Internet is a Kennel – http://b2l.me/aam79c

  14. Best Fresh Content Pick: The Internet is a Kennel http://bit.ly/9uiMDP by @ ikepigott

  15. Best Fresh Content Pick: The Internet is a Kennel http://bit.ly/9uiMDP by @ikepigott

  16. Ike Pigott says:

    @tomforemski – Your thoughts on this? http://ike4.me/o113

  17. Tom Foremski says:

    Interesting post on "minions" from @ikepigott http://ike4.me/o113

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