Is Perpetual Negativity Valuable?

Sorry about the title. I’m having a tough time figuring out a good title for this post.

If you use twitter with any frequency, you’re probably familiar with Amanda Chapel. “She’s” a fictional character created to do nothing but attack and contradict anything said by web 2.0 evangelists. Now, don’t read that last sentence as a criticism. There’s no value judgement there. And the fact that this character exists to keep web 2.0 folks in check is what makes me ask the question: is there value in constantly trying to poke holes in opinions?

Who Is Amanda Chapel?

When I first started to use twitter, I started to notice a person that would counter anything said by PR people and anyone talking about social media. At first, I started to wonder why someone would spend the time to try to start debates. Then I found myself getting annoyed by the constant negativity. Some examples:

Comparing social media strategists to Nazis:

Accusing Chris Brogan of being a sycophant:

   

When she started to take aim at friends and people I respect, I started to wonder….”who is this person?” So I did a few quick google searches and learned that “Amanda Chapel” wasn’t a real person, but instead a character created by 5 people at a PR firm in Chicago.

Is There Value In Negativity?

Once I found out that an anonymous group of people were using a fake persona to start arguments, I started to look at Amanda Chapel differently. At first I thought it was incredibly lame and cowardly to take shots at people anonymously. I mean, how hard is it to throw insults and attacks at someone when you are anonymous and without accountability? When there’s no risk of hurting your own reputation, it’s pretty easy to be a complete jerk.

As time went on, I started to have somewhat of a change of heart. I said somewhat. Let me explain.

After some time on twitter, I started to get the feeling that many people viewed social media tools as a panacea rather than means to an end. Having a presence on facebook was the end goal instead of improving visibility and reach. Convincing others to digg a story for a client was the end goal, not increasing traffic to a site to promote brand awareness. I started to see twitter as a happy plugfest.

That is, except for anything said by Amanda Chapel.

I’ve always been annoyed by people that claim to be the Devil’s Advocate. The kind of person that arbitrarily argues with any viewpoint or opinion you may have for the sake of making you defend your position. The fact that they don’t have their own stance is what gets to me. Just arguing without revealing how you feel isn’t fair in a debate. The person you’re attacking cannot counter-argue, as the only position available is a defensive one (I have to defend my position because I don’t know yours).

But then again, maybe that’s what we need. Maybe twitter conversations, and conversations taking place in social media in general, have been so happy-lucky and self-promoting that we need counterbalance.

Well? What Do You Think?

So, maybe people like the Amanda Chapel character are exactly what’s needed. A fictional character that forces us to truly re-examine our own opinions and biases in the 2.0 world may be neccessary. And the fact that she’s someone whose reputation cannot be hurt makes it even more important to be able to clearly and substantially defend our positions (she’ll never lose business because of public embarrassment, as “she” doesn’t really exist….but you do).

To me, Amanda Chapel reminds me of the “bad guy” in professional wrestling. When you’re a kid, you root for the good guys and hate everything about the “bad guys.” But as you grow up, you come to appreciate the bad guy. You start to like the instigator. To me, Amanda Chapel is the Ric Flair of social media.

2 Responses to “Is Perpetual Negativity Valuable?”

  1. Blades don’t get sharper on chamois cloth. They need stones to grind against.

    I learn lots from Amanda, and I used to really appreciate “her” take. My only problem now is, there’s no meat to the sizzle. Calling us nazis is marginally interesting, because it raises one’s dander, but when she does something with any DEPTH, that’d be useful.

    I don’t like negative people, but I try to learn from them.

    Great post for thinking about it, Nathan. See you this weekend?

  2. Thanks, Chris. Good points. Instigating can be interesting, but only as a starting point for a debate…not when that’s all there is.

    I’ll see you this weekend.

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