I came across two interesting blog posts discussing the fact that social media seems to be off to a slow start in Germany compared to the United States. This reflects my own experience, as I find that most of the social media blogs I read (and podcasts I listen too) originate from my native land. There are a couple of exceptions, and of course, as I am an American living in Germany, I have a certain propensity to read and listen to commentary in my mother tongue. But still there is no doubt that compared to the number of blogs and podcasts originating State side, it’s slim pickings in good old Germany.
The post in ReadWriteWeb concerns itself mostly with a comparison between blogging and social media activity in the US and Germany. More interesting are Felix Salmon’s 10 reasons why the blogosphere is failing to thrive in Germany. While he writes specifically about blogs on economics, I think the points he’s identified apply to blogging in general. These include:
- A high degree of respect for traditional standard qualifications and sources of authority. (As the world knows, questioning authority has not been a historical strength of the Germans — at least not during the first half of the last century.)
- A general discomfort on the part of Germans to be seen as outsiders, as many bloggers see themselves.
- Less inherent respect for the voice of the people or the common man, compared to America.
- A propensity to be methodical and comprehensive in expressing a point of view, whereas the style of blogs (not to mention micro-blogs) favors the succinct, the sound byte and the spontaneous. (Think of Wagner vs. Puccini.)
When people ask me about certain typical characteristics of Germans (respect for authority, heightened sensitivity to instability, initial caution and reserve in regard to strangers), I cite one of my favorite theories. It all goes back to the Thirty Years’ War. This was one of the bloodiest conflicts in European history, it was played out mostly on German soil, a substantial portion of the civilian population was slaughtered, and society as a whole was shaken to its foundations. It was a watershed event that left a deep and enduring need in the collective German psyche to maintain social stability and established institutions.
I am more optimistic than the writers of these posts about the future of blogging and social media in Germany. By virtue of the borderless social web, younger generations of Germans are being exposed to, influenced by and participating in this new style of shared thinking and ideas. And in so doing, perhaps they are eliminating the last vestages of an ingrained, common societal “angst” and exaggerated caution when it comes to expressing themselves spontaneously. One hopes this will set their social media spirit free and enable them to embrace the blogosphere and podosphere with the same gusto and enthusiasm as their fellow post-generation-Xers on the other side of the Atlantic.