I feel like I need lots of disclaimers here. I am sure for example that Huddle is a solid platform. The people there seem really nice, savvy and switched on. They are part of a star burst of London based startup innovation, and as such I want them to succeed.
But a mashup of twitter and hot or not is so clearly a bad idea: a service that tends to drive followers to people based on their looks. Ugh. Twitter is such a phenomenal place for ideas to shine, after all, why dress them up in “fit”. Don’t get me wrong. I am guilty as charged – of course I occasionally click on avatar profile images of people I think are cute to find out that they are about. Who doesn’t? I would assert that’s human nature. But in Real Life we can’t just click follow to anyone we find attractive (well we might, but that way lies incarceration).
What does Twit or Fit say about our cultures? Should we just reflect the wider culture of try and build some new traditions- I would say hopefully the latter.
In the mainstream, in order to be a successful novelist these days you seemingly have to be good looking. See Zadie Smith et al. Expertise and prowess are tarnished in favour of looks. There is no room for scientists on TV any more because they often aren’t so easy on the eye.
So we have sexy presenters instead. Clearly I sound like a grumpy old man- which is fair enough given I am nearing corduroy age – but I can’t help thinking Huddle could have done more with their undoubted creativity. I am not averse to play and daftness on twitter. How could I be, after the summer of chinposin? But I prefer to think of twitter as a place to find the best ideas and exponents of them rather than the sharpest cheekbones. Spending a lot of time looking at avatars on makes it clear that sex sells on social nets the same as anywhere else – and just as in real life women tend to care more about their appearance (than dorks, anyway).
Am I an elitist? Sure. Am I grumpy? Sure.
Look – bloggers tore into Unilever for its perceived hypocrisy in advertising Dove with positive images of women, and Axe with its more – shall we say “traditional” approach to advertising (Axe seems to be the US equivalent of Lynx – with a long tradition of ads I frankly find pretty funny in the main). It seems nothing so much as a realistic position by Unilever that it might celebrate women with a brand that talks to positive body image, while also selling deodorant to men with the idea they’d be more likely to get laid if they didn’t smell so bad).
Should the web community be held to a higher standard than a major multinational culture or the wider culture at large? Probably not – but it might be nice to think we celebrated merit. I have been thinking about the notion of Asymmetric Follow a lot lately (as have many others) – that is the power laws which underpin social networks. As Dave Johnson points out, asymmetric follow with no reply is basically the Celebrity pattern.
You buy their records, watch their movies, send in fan mail but you will probably never be acknowledged by the star nor will what you have communicated probably even be read by them or impact them. All follow no follow back.
Is Twit or Fit sexist? No – its all about equal opportunities objectification. But is this really what Web 2.0 becomes? A world in which many eyes make all things shallow?