Did anyone see Craig Newmark, who identified himself as both founder and "customer service representative" of Craig's List, or something similar, on Jon Stewart two nights ago?
Not to sound like the ever more inconsequential David Brooks, but I do think there is developing "bobo" behavior among the social media stars, and while on the one hand I admire the humility implied in still considering himself beholden to the users of Craig List, I also worry that in seeking to remain authentic media leaders like Newmark will somehow cop a false image of being still just one voice in the crowd. Of course, if he is really answering emails and complaints, as he told Stewart, there is nothing fake about doing the work.
Katherine Graham retained the loyal devotion of employees at the Washington Post when she took classified ad orders during the pressman's strike in 1975. But on the other hand, I was personally relieved when Bill Gates stopped flying coach, since that struck me as a kind of false humility (or just being cheap.) Hand-crafted blogs are great, and imply a single, uncorrupted voice, but to achieve scale they are going to need to grow and develop a management hierarchy -- does that endanger their authenticity as well?
If we are going to continue to put a value on authenticity in the realm of social media, how will we define it? And will we know it when we see it?