Altruism & Social Media With Author Deanna Zandt


The minute I think about “altruism” through the social media lens, part of my heart feels full. In the next breath, skepticism begins to arise. So when it came time to address this, I figured we’d be better served by hearing someone who’s written a book on the topic.

The following is an abridged transcript of my conversation with author and media technologist Deanna Zandt about her book, “Share This! How You Will Change the World With Social Networking.”

CB: Your book focuses on using technology for social good. How does that work?

DZ: There’s a fundamental cultural consciousness shift happening, and each individual participating via social networking in these conversations about policy and legislation and culture–each one of us contributing our voices and experiences and values–is a radical change from how public discourse has operated in the past. Before, public discourse was mediated by some other person with god knows what for an agenda. That changes by changing who’s at the table.

CB: Looking at all these networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, some might say that the altruism isn’t … all true. What do you think?

DZ: I think there are certainly pieces of that, but I also think Narcissism, or what we perceive as Narcissism, might not necessarily be. There’s a really great book called The Ethics of Authenticity that almost predicts this rise of sharing and me-me-me we see. One of the thoughts is perhaps this sharing of self is not just a need for attention but also a need for self-identity and exploring other people to understand one’s self better. I think there’s validity in that. Humans don’t do anything really super solo as much as we like to believe. We need to be in dialogue.

CB: One of the challenges with social media is just the sheer noise. What do you do about that?

DZ: This is something people who have done advocacy work and social justice work have faced for years. They call it cause fatigue. People become immune to certain messages after a certain period of time. What we see evolving in advocacy work and what is clearly becoming more effective is not trying to reach millions of people so 200 will take action, but seeking out and targeting the 200 people already interested and engaging them directly. I’m sincerely hoping the spectacle model of getting the word out will go away soon because it’s not doing anybody much good, and people become immune to spectacle pretty quickly.

CB: Do you really think human nature will allow that to happen?

DZ: One of the examples in my book that talks about this is a group of parents that were very outraged at the implementation of standardized testing in Palm Beach County, Florida. They started a Facebook group and ultimately ended up getting 8,000 parents in this group, negotiated with the school administrators and were able to change different parts of the policy. They didn’t have to get on 60 Minutes [to resolve it].

CB: It seems like so many people are swinging for the fences and forgetting that sometimes bunting is a really good strategy.

DZ: We’re so trapped in this mindset of more is better – more followers, more fans or more “likes” means I will be successful because in the past that’s how we’ve had to operate with communications. Today it’s more about influence and relationships.

For the full interview, skip on over to my blog.

About The Author

What began for me as a career telling other people’s stories has evolved into a journey of helping others tell their stories for themselves. I'm a “classically trained” Journalist whose passion for communications began with my first job ripping wire copy in 1982 and has evolved to encompass nearly every platform and aspect of media – from reporting and editing to broadcast management, talent casting and guest booking. I've also curated content for several of the tech industry’s leading conferences. It was after finding myself engaged as an activist for LGBT equal rights that I began to explore the way in which personal stories inform and influence people’s everyday lives and I began using my tech background to teach people to make these connections of personal stories, using new technologies as the medium. Presently I run my own consulting firm in San Francisco, working with companies and individuals helping them navigate the crowded waterways of new technologies with the express purpose of leveraging these rapidly evolving platforms to tell their stories. Through workshops, seminars and strategic consulting services, I walk clients through the story-telling process and towards the kind of deep engagement that comes from truly authentic communication.

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