Oddly enough, this started as a facebook post.

Posted on June 15th, 2012

Filed under: General — Karl Olson @ 11:30 pm

I think I’m beginning to see that many of the friends (especially real-life contacts) that I’d most like to get an update from aren’t actually using social media regularly anymore. It’s at most the occasional photo, maybe a little blurb about catching a movie or going to a band. Rarely is there a moment of personal emotion, or at least feels like it’s been a lot less common. No talking about work (though in the NDA era this is no surprise,) no talking about relationships (perhaps to be expected as people settle down,) but even the university-aged people rarely talk about how classes are going (and I don’t see why that’d be a problem.) Everyone seems to play their cards close to their chest these days, even when that doesn’t seem necessary.

Though, maybe that’s a signal-to-noise problem.

After all, it feels like there’s been a massive increase in the amount re-shared content that I’ve usually already seen repeatedly. In a sense, re-shared content plays a role in face to face human interaction, but that interaction re-contextualizes and personalizes the information itself. It is also by default a conversation, and thus less likely to hit the mental filter of “saw that; can’t be bothered to comment further on it.” In a sense, you can’t have seen it, because it was already changed by the fact it was brought up in a conversation.

This leave all leaves me wondering how “social” social media is. If the future of Facebook is memes, old news stories, and self-promotion all relayed such that it doesn’t spur interaction, it’s going to go the way of MySpace. Facebook had a vitality because of new avenues of conversation, but conversation needs some personality to get started, and for the most part, wholesale re-shared content lacks personality. That’s not to say I’m not guilty of exploiting memes and internet pop culture myself, but in that sense, I exploit that information – I re-contextualized it when I put it in a song or a photo. It’s not just re-shared, it’s remixed.

However, I think a solution would be to have a means to block re-shared material from certain pages. This way, you could see the information shared that has personality, but stuff from content aggregators that only exists to be regurgitated could be filtered out, making the entire experience more personal. If part of the success of social media is the fact that it lets people connect in a fashion previously impractical (a broader range of people, a greater amount of transparency,) why have the artificial impracticality of a lack of fine filtering? In real life, you can take in the information from people you’d like to have, and ignore the topics on which you don’t share. More importantly, the topics you don’t care about don’t drown the information you do care about. Hyper re-sharing on Facebook breaks that real life consideration, and in this case, that change subverts the functionality and usefulness of the service. If you have to spend an hour on Facebook just to get at interesting content, you’ll stop spending time on it entirely.

That said, I’ve written this post while my site’s twitter bar is displaying a tweet I made about a news article I read on another site. Even after recognizing why social media is sometimes dysfunctional, it takes effort to not be that guy linking to stuff he read online. On that note, I relayed that news in own my words, trying at least to put my own character into the content, and that may be the difference.

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