I’ve recently become less and less active on Facebook. I have had 100′s of friends there, and I was an avid poster of updates, photos and shared content. I used to check 10′s (if not >100) times daily, and used to read tons of updates and shares. There are two useful scenarios still – photo sharing and content sharing. The interestingness of content sharing is also on the decline, for which Twitter seems to be a better fit. I ditched foursquare and used Facebook to checkin as well.
Not any more.
It is probably their algo or perchance, but I see updates from the same set of folks, and their personality is now becoming more routine and less interesting over time. Posting my own updates is getting tiresome to my network, and the engagement has steadily fallen. This slow-motion of my virtual social life in a closed network of familiar folks has become kinda boring. It has had literally no impact on my ‘real’ social life, other than an occasional throwbacks to my Facebook posts during my real social interactions.
So what happened? I put on my product manager hat now.
Facebook pretty much has become a way to broadcast-subscribe casual communications. Someone posts something that many folks may or may not decide to consume, occasionally resulting in some sort of a group conversation. The central question is – does this mean Facebook is “Social”? I am not a super-social person in the real world. But I do have the OCD for patterns (boon and a bane). Here are my observations.
A social interaction in the real world is about people interacting with people, through a delicate dance of exchange of words, thoughts, feelings, glances and gestures. Exposing one self progressively in thoughts and attitudes, for a return favor in kind. Sometimes you hit off right away with another person. Sometimes it simmers. It’s mutual admiration. It’s physical. It’s metaphysical. It’s religious. There are bursts of interaction and then there are renewals. Some people ‘light up the room’. Some blow you away with wisdom. Grace. Beauty. You run into people occasionally - exchange pleasantries, make promises, and comfortably fade away. You are comfortable with some, you are intimidated by some, you love, you lust. It’s about creating shared life experiences with an ensemble cast of characters as wide ranging as the fate has in store for you.
How can we bottle up all of that into an algorithm to order the self-projections of outspoken individuals? How far are the written text and frozen images capable of bottling up the range of social mechanics?
I believe we are miles away from making people more social. Facebook is not social. Facebook interactions are as much a Social gadget as is a tap on the back, or glance askance, or tapping on a wine glass at the dinner table. Confusing a communication tool for a social utility is a big mistake, and vastly underserves the potential of electronics to aid folks in being more social.
I could think of a ‘copilot’ model of a social utility – sort of Google Now for social interactions. Pulls up a person’s profile when you are about to run into them. Pull up a quick pick up line. Or a dress recommendation for that cocktail party. I’d love that. I could get that kind of utility into something like a Google Glass. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?