Beware the digital hippies

Is it me, or is there a new pervasive force on Twitter? In a space previously held by the gutter rats of business, the recruitment consultants, a darker army has been quietly amassing their powers.

I’m of course talking about the digital hippies.

You may know them, you may not yet recognise them, but here are ten reasons you need to be aware.

1)    They don’t create wealth – These guys mock the corporate employees. They talk about their experiences of quitting corporate life. But in the end, the vast majority don’t employ people, they don’t create wealth for other people, they are merely self-serving, lone wolves who seek purpose and identity by trying to form an online collective.

2)    They don’t understand empirical evidence – I’m not against a bit of instinct, I’m not against a bit of intuition. We have more information available to us than at any time in the history of mankind. But why trouble yourself with that, when you can spout complete unproven nonsense on a regular basis without any grounding. Peace and love man. Yeah…..whatever.

3)    They spend a disproportionate time on Twitter – I like to tweet, I like Twitter but if I look at it at any point in the day, these guys are on there. Get a life. Get a job. Get a hobby. Get off my Timeline and take a walk.

4)    They make a mockery of HR – So most of these guys are sole traders – or as you and I would know them, consultants. But they don’t call themselves consultants, because that sounds too…..well corporate. Instead they call themselves coaches, or business owners, connectors or perhaps my favourite, CEOs. They don’t talk about 80% of the work that we do in HR, they don’t talk about industrial relations or employment relations. They have no idea. They think they’re talking about HR, but their only audience are the navels they’re gazing into.

5)    They disrespect the honest working person – Most of us work because we need money. Most people HAVE to work because they need money. Most of us are absolutely ok with that. Talk of fulfilment, engagement, passion, vocation….these are things that the vast majority have no time for. Not because, they’re not brave enough, but because they have no economic choice. You’re not the vanguard, you’re the indulgent.

6)    They quote – For the love of Buddha. No more quotes. No more quotes. Yes Martin Luther King Jr was amazing, yes the Dalai Lama is a dude. But I don’t need you to tell me something that you’ve just looked up on I really don’t.

7)    They create pointless “communities” – Remember when you were a kid and you had gangs? Not the sort that wear their trousers low and stab you. I’m talking about the kind with passwords and “bases”. These guys have hashtags and tweet ups that are about as sophisticated and as meaningless. The thing is, they’re adults. Not kids. Which makes it kinda creepy.

8)    They place “connection” over “content” – Discernment doesn’t come easy to these guys. You look like me, you sound like me we’re all good. You write the biggest piece of twaddle ever on your blog and I will comment and retweet. Why? Because I want you to do the same. Effluent is effluent regardless of how many times it multiplies.

9)    They place nothing in context – FX crisis? Economic downturn? Political turmoil? How does that impact on us? I mean, we’re above of all of that….we’ve risen to a new emotional and intellectual plane where these things don’t matter. We’re creating a new agenda, a new way of thinking, we’re…….living in a bubble…..and talking out of your behinds…..that’s what.

10) They have a dreadful dress sense and bad breath – OK….so I made that one up. But I bet they do, I mean… would stand to reason, right?

Just beware……and don’t say I didn’t warn you……


  1. djbrkr barker · June 21, 2012

    Seems a bit too easy to be all ‘them and us’ about them being all ‘them and us’ though. Or to generalise about their generalisation. Or to bucket their bucketisation. etc.

    I think all of these individual themes have always been there.

    Perhaps you’re seeing more of them because of your particular followers/following, or because you’ve mentally defined this group & are therefore noticing it more, or because – through ‘lack’ of full time jobs – there are more self-employed people around trying to figure out ‘what next?’ and are drifting in the interim.

    • Neil · June 22, 2012

      I think you’re absolutely right.

  2. Antonia Rae · June 21, 2012

    And they play World of Warcraft all night and are too knackered during the day to be any use to anyone!! Polish intellectuals exempted from this rant.

    • Neil · June 22, 2012

      World of Warcraft……scary stuff…..

  3. Julie · June 21, 2012

    Thank you, thank you, thank you….

    I was going to go off on a blog rant today about those people who only tweet motivational quotes or hog the space with inane and repetive HR mantras/advice…but you’ve done it a so a concise and eloquent way that my “hey people, you suck!” seems, well, a bit weak.

    • Neil · June 22, 2012

      I think it sums it up perfectly!!

  4. Jamie · June 21, 2012

    Ahhh, an honest blog. It’s like a fold beer on a hot summers day. Loved it.

    • Neil · June 22, 2012

      Is that a beer that you can put in your back pocket?

      • Jamie Leonard · June 23, 2012

        Yes. Yet again auto spell makes for another hilarious mistake.

  5. Henry · June 21, 2012

    What are you on about?

    • Neil · June 22, 2012

      I have no idea….

      • Henry · June 23, 2012

        Well, at the very least you are always charming.
        I look forward to the next blog post returning to the strategic insight for which we know and love ya!

      • Rick · June 25, 2012

        No change there then!

  6. matdavies · June 21, 2012

    yes, yes and yes again. Spot on Neil: I was thinking something similar this morning on the morning commute. I think a serious “unfollow” is in order….

    • Doug Shaw · June 22, 2012

      Try Twitcleaner, I’ve found it helpful ion the past for just such an occasion

      • Neil · June 22, 2012

        I love Twitcleaner

    • Neil · June 22, 2012


  7. Meg Peppin · June 22, 2012

    As a self employed, freelancer, sole trader, consultant, whatever, maybe I’m being oversensitive but it feels like I am your real target, not twitter. It’s quite difficult to formulate a response that just doesn’t sound defensive, because there are some things that you say in which I can see there is truth bit it really hurts to know that others so dislike the self employed.

    But Know this, I’m totally committed to each piece of work i do with my clients, iin general, I put more effort that they do into ensuring that we make links to their business performance from the work that I do I can provide you with evidence.
    Know this, each person with whom I work, each organisation will know that I respect and value the individual and their worth iand that my integrity is precious to me, and I will always put others before me and not do work that I don’t think will add value.
    Know this, maybe I don’t create wealth, but if I can help an organisation to create a place where people want to stay, not leave, and to get excited about their customers, not apathetic, there are financial correlations Know this,
    Know this, the people with whom I work, recognise that if you and I can argue our point, and not fall out, that their business will very likely gain insights, and not lose innovation. They don’t need any further proof, because they are generally experienced and qualified enough to trust their own judgement.
    Know this, I have to work. It’s not a nice to have
    Know this, a lone worker can get lonely and if it finds some playmates – let it play. You don’t have to.

    Twitter is the opiate of the masses, you have no more rights to it than anyone just cos you were there first..

    So there.

    • Julie · June 22, 2012

      Know this, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

      (Oh crap, that’s a quote…my bad)

    • Neil · June 22, 2012

      Meg, I don’t dislike the self employed at all. I dislike the self employed who somehow suggest that being employed is bad and bang on about the joys of self employment and the woes of corporate life.

      Consider this, if I was bragging about bonuses, paid holidays or my pension schemes people would think I was a bit of a pillock. And rightly so.

      And as for Twitter…..I declare no rights. I don’t have to follow anyone.


      • Meg Peppin · June 22, 2012

        Well, in hindsight, my reply clearly is defensive, despite my efforts for it to be otherwise but I did want to write an honest response as your blog definitely made me think – is any of that that me?. I really hope not.

        You are expressing what a lot of people think/experience and that disappoints me. I expect I’ll get over it.

        Thanks for taking the time to respond.

  8. David Richter · June 22, 2012

    Neil, were you responsible for crashing Twitter yesterday?

    • Neil · June 22, 2012

      My bad.

  9. Doug Shaw · June 22, 2012

    Sorry for the delay in replying, I’ve been on Facebook and all that jazz. There’s a lot in your list I like and agree with, and some I’m not so sure about.

    I would like to put forth a pithy and humorous argument for and against various points but someone from my LinkedIn group has just Tweeted telling me that my Klout score has gone up.

    (Actually I’m just off to pick up Keira from school – but don’t tell anyone, they all think I’m like, totes busy).

    • Neil · June 22, 2012

      Slacker……but then you are CEO now…..

  10. Meg Peppin · June 22, 2012

    Julie. Great quote! Does look a bit like it doesn’t it.

    • Neil · June 22, 2012

      *cough* I think that might have been aimed at you…. 🙂

      • Meg Peppin · June 22, 2012

        Sigh, I know! I got it!!

  11. Neil · June 22, 2012


  12. Meg Peppin · June 22, 2012

    How do you put a smily face in??

    • Neil · June 22, 2012

      Magic….. 🙂

  13. Sukh Pabial · June 23, 2012

    The thing is I see both sides of what you’re getting at here.

    I see that being in a corporate role has its benefits and opportunities in many ways.

    Also, I see that consultants/external suppliers have options available that make the work they do useful and interesting.

    But the piece I don’t know if I get is why you’re still following these people if they’re really grating on you like this? It’s almost like this is an announcement to publicly let people know why you’re about to unfollow a whole group of people. Surely just unfollowing them relieves the frustration of having them in the timeline?

    I will follow people where they seem to hold something of interest that I want to be part of. Where I see they are offering nothing to me, I just unfollow. Makes my timeline a bit cleaner, and I don’t have to roll my eyes at yet another annoying tweet that I don’t want to read.

    As a complete aside, I would love there to be a facility on Twitter which allowed you to let someone know why they have been unfollowed. It’s the ultimate in narcissism, yet would also allow for some serious insight into how people actually perceive your (the royal your that is) use of Twitter.

    • Neil · June 23, 2012

      Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
      Because their words had forked no lightning they
      Do not go gentle into that good night.

  14. Pingback: E-mail Killed the Chat Show Star « T Recs
  15. Neil – I’ve just re-read your post after our Twitter exchange last week. As I said, I think you’re describing a 20thC world. I disagree with almost everything you’ve said… and if I may say so, I think you’re being crudely provocative and cynical. Was that your intention?

    I’ve got that tight feeling in my shoulders writing this, so you’ve clearly succeeded. We can discuss when we have that pint (I don’t really have the time to write a considered response now. There’s so much I’d like to say).

    Not one of your better posts, IMHO.

  16. Neil · June 26, 2012

    Steve, thanks for commenting. I’m sorry that you find the working reality of the vast majority of the people 20thC. Looking forward to the beer….for that last comment…’re buying! 🙂

  17. I hate when I see myself in your work!

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