Klout is the Sugar Cereal of Social Nutrition

Klout is the Sugar Cereal of Social Nutrition*

I like sugar cereal, I do. In my family home we were rarely allowed to have it. The rule was if sugar appeared as one of the first two ingredients on the box, then that cereal was unfit for our bodies. As soon as I was a grown up and had rented my own apartment, one of the first things I purchased, one of the first things I deserved, was to eat sugar cereals. Because I could, because they were delicious, because it was what all the ads I watched on TV and billboards and the radio said I should do. “4 out of 5 doctors who eat cereal say…” “100 Million people have Klout…”

Kellogg’s cereal was born from a sanitarium in 1877. It was a health-food. In 1909 Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner prescribed Muesli for his patients. Health food. Cocoa Puffs? Trix?

Modern day social-dietitians prescribe lots of tactics to increase your social health. Some are solidly nutritious, some are attractive AND nutritious, some are deliciously sweet, and vibrant, but are really just empty calories. Can you tell the difference? Tony the tiger says, “They’re great!”

Reading the Klout ingredients, it’s mostly sugar. I ignore the logic, I’m tempted by it. I reach for its colorful box, its game-like content scribed across its front. I sneak it late at night when no one is watching. I know its really not good for me, but its seductive. Its magical powers map to those puzzle holes in my brain, the receptors, that make me feel better. See, I have a score! And I can control it, I can manufacture my own destiny through a handful of activities that increases my value to…um…my impact on…to…other folks who check Klout scores? Community! That’s it. It increases my value and impact to a community of other people who value algorithmic scores as the indicator of value and impact to a community.

C’mon, the social space is so vast, so uncharted, so full of disruption and change, who can really deal with its unfathomable nature? I want, I require, the simple answer. Having to analyze people, messages, and behaviors is hard. I’d much rather just know their Klout score and call it a day’s work. Is that so wrong?

Listen, sometimes I need a crutch to lean on, a respite from thinking, a break from the healthy-body healthy-mind regime. We all do. I like sugar cereal, I also brush my teeth. In the meantime 19% of US children between the ages of 2 and 19 have untreated dental cavities. Children below the poverty line have a significantly higher rate of untreated cavities. In 2010, an estimated $108 billion was spent on dental services in the United States. In 2008, on average, 68.5% of US citizens visit the dentist each year (CT was the highest, Oklahoma was the lowest). That must be a good business to be in. Now only if we can take that model and layer it on everything else…

Oh Klout. There you sit on the shelf, burgeoning in your adoption. Social-dietitians professing your whole-body goodness while armies of social-dentists and social-rewardsmen hover at the door, waiting to provide the trinkets and salve for the eventual ailments. What to do? I’m torn between wellness and sweetness! I want to check my Klout score!

Nay, fly to Altars; there they’ll talk you dead;
For Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread.

Untreated Dental Caries (Cavities) in Children Ages 2-19, United States

Adults aged 18+ who have visited a dentist or dental clinic in the past year

An Essay on Criticism, by Alexander Pope

*Social Nutrition is a TM of Jason Moriber