Is Social Media Simply High School All Over Again?

Thus the impetus behind The Influence Project. Launched in the first week of July, this seemingly harmless experiment into determining the biggest influencers on the Web has received a ton of coverage and controversy. Much of the uproar has focused on accusing Fast Company of simply feeding egos and rewarding narcissism while driving viral traffic to their site on a grand scale.

For Fast Company, their attempt to answer this question began with another: Who are the most influential people online right now?

Thus the impetus behind The Influence Project. Launched in the first week of July, this seemingly harmless experiment into determining the biggest influencers on the Web has received a ton of coverage and controversy. Much of the uproar has focused on accusing Fast Company of simply feeding egos and rewarding narcissism while driving viral traffic to their site on a grand scale.

According to the program, here are Fast Company’s self-proscribed qualifiers as to how “influence” is determined online:

HOW WE MEASURE INFLUENCE

The scale of your influence, and therefore the size of your photo, is based on two measures.

1. The number of people who directly click on your unique URL link. This is the primary measure of your influence, pure and simple.

2. You will receive partial “credit” for subsequent clicks generated by those who register as a result of your URL. In other words, anyone who comes to the site through your link and registers for their own account will be spreading your influence while they spread theirs. That way, you get some benefit from influencing people who are influential themselves. We will give a diminishing, fractional credit (1/2, ¼, 1/8 etc. ) for clicks generated up to six degrees away from your original link.

OK. Got all that? Now, whether you agree with it or not is another thing. Also being called into question is the altruistic value of all this. Some parties, outraged by the lack of substance behind the project, have gone as far as to threaten to hijack it for more “worthy” results than just finding out who has the most friends on Facebook or the most followers on Twitter. Wouldn’t this platform be better served to help those in need rather than support an online popularity contest?

I have to admit I now feel a bit shallow for having registered. Thankfully, I can fall back on the premise that it’s all for the sake of a good story and not just to see how “influential” I am online. Then again, maybe I’d be singing a different tune if I wasn’t ranked just 26,375 out of 26,396 entries as of the writing of this post;)

What do you think?