Social Media Cults

by Jay Deragon on 03/15/2011

Social Media is facilitating the formation of  cults around different beliefs of application. Social media cults pejoratively refers to a group whose beliefs or practices could be considered strange or outside the norm of traditional thinking.

Social media cults  denote a system of ritual practices around specific applications of use.  Social media cults facilitate movements, which is a term in reference to social media gurus of specific practices seen as authoritarian, exploitative and possibly dangerous.

Historically “cults” emerge around different beliefs that do not conform with traditional beliefs or practices.  Today we can see this emerging within numerous high profile practitioners of social media usage aimed at specific processes. The list of processes are endless but the dominant ones consume the conversations throughout the ecosystem of social platforms, communities and network silos.

10 Social Media Cult Characteristics

  1. A social media cult is a group led by an all powerful leader or leaders who claim to have special knowledge for using social media.  The leader gathers thousands of followers who hang on ever word the leaders speaks. The charismatic leader propagates content and followers  claim that it is the ultimate wisdom about social media as it applies to specific practices.
  2. A social media cult is a group of people whose life style is different from peers.
  3. A social media cult is also referred as New Media Groupies – an alternate media – that depicts unusual practices and dynamics
  4. A social media cult rejects traditional thinking about business, society and cultural norms of the past
  5. A social media cult members follows the thinking of social media cult leaders like the thoughts and ideas were a religion
  6. Social media cults gather together at annual conferences to worship the latest breakthroughs in thinking and application of social media within numerous vertical markets and traditional PR,advertising and marketing practices
  7. Social media cult members spend more time tweeting, blogging, connecting and collaborating with virtual friends than they do with family, local friends, coworkers and business associates
  8. Spouses of social media cult members wonder what it is that their spouse does and why they spend so much time on their computers. They also wonder why their spouse interrupts sex to read a tweet from a twit.
  9. Social media cult members use terms like “twit, tweet, php, widget and use things like wisestamp, wordpress,  plugins,blogs and skype of which all are foreign to the non-cult members
  10. Social media cults proclaim the coming of a new promise land where there are no advertisements, no work hours, no physical offices, no dollar bills and last but not least a new awakening for the soul of the human network.

Like cults of the past today’s social media cults will come and go and as more and more technology converges on the human network the beliefs will converge into one universal application.  That universal application will touch everyone and everything and each individual will become part of a different cult called the human network. The human network will then learn to save itself from social media cults.


Linn Williams March 16, 2011 at 11:09 am

I agree, a good anthropological insight, although the article itself is rather poorly written, in my opinion. The points are well taken. But tell me – doesn’t the ending seem like the product of grandiose, simplistic, cult-like thinking, itself? The “human network” (how very socio-tekkie) will then “save itself” (rapture away from?) from social media cults (the innate instinct to form groups and create ‘others’ ?) The cure sounds as scary as the disease.

David Jacobstein March 15, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Great analysis of this anthropological phenomenon. I think this is funny, poignant, astute and insightful. How many Social Media “Gurus,” do you think will change their title after reading this post?

Aaron Eden March 15, 2011 at 8:12 pm

Is this for real? I had a laugh upon reading item#8. Our lives are getting digital these days that the only thing missing is transporting yourself into your screen. Reading it all makes me think that social media marketers are top cults on the list. So, do you consider SXSW a cult? 🙂

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