F5 Expo keynote Malcolm Gladwell on Social Media

With the F5 Expo and Malcolm Gladwell’s keynote presentation less than 48 hours away, the Globe and Mail’s Patrick Brethour sat down to with Gladwell to talk about being deliberately absent from almost all social media platforms. Gladwell’s blog posts are biannual, his Facebook page is a placeholder and he has never ventured on to Twitter.

On Wednesday in Vancouver, he speaks to the F5 Expo, but first he spoke to Brethour on social media and why he’s cut himself off from much of that world.

On balance, are the social media a positive or negative thing?

I’d like to think that on balance any innovation, at the end of the day, is usually a net good. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t significant and sometimes adverse consequences that we need to find another way to deal with. While we’re in the midst of the revolution, we need to stop and talk about its broader consequences.

Can you give me an example?

The ease with which you can organize people means you no longer have to go to the trouble of things like building strong grassroots organizations, developing a coherent message, forming strong and lasting ties with individuals. That’s one consequence. The reason that people did that in the past is that it was really hard, that you had to that to build a broader organization. Now, you can do the broad part so easily, you don’t have to do your homework first.

For a lot of people in the media, tweeting is almost obligatory. Why not for you?

There’s only so much you can do in a day. And I don’t feel I lack for platforms for expressing myself. I have books, I write for the New Yorker. If I gave people any more, they’d get sick of me. I have a Blackberry, like any good Canadian. I’m from Waterloo – how can I not have a Blackberry? I’ll leave it in my bag for a while or I leave the office and go and work in a café. I’m right now working on something and I printed it off so I can work away from a computer for a while. There are just all kinds of little techniques one uses to restore alone time.

Read the rest of Brethour’s interview and if you’d like to hear Gladwell in person, you still have time to buy a ticket.