Why The Facebooks & The Walmarts Will Never Win The War.

Categories Opinion, Social Media

Most other organisms are topical, we are not. We can grow anywhere and everywhere, so much like ants and cockroaches.  It’s a strictly zoological reference, no offense.

Man is an animal. In fact, not!

We have a much more complex composition. A large part of us is defined by “personality,” most animals don’t have to contend with it. A lot of you will try to punch me with the animals are humans too but not in the same way argument. But I will dodge that. Their livelihood doesn’t depend on jobs that are based on personality matches; they don’t have personality tests or personality improvement books. Moreover, I am sure they don’t subject each other to the intense levels of scrutiny that we humans do.

So animals are animals. Humans are humans.

And, we humans grow in mysterious ways.  The tallest and the strongest man doesn’t become the head of the clan. The woman with the widest hips or longest hair doesn’t become the most desired one. There are no uniform standards. We are all judged, constantly judged and there are few things in the world which can be more agonizing than that.

While growing up, endless numbers of factors influence what we become, such as the size and composition of the family, societal and peer pressure, family expectations, level of exposure to the world, education or lack of it and countless more.

Man is more like a fruit!

Almost all of us grow up to be shy and avoid unnecessary human interaction. We are the fruits. We cover ourselves with a thick outer layer, which is an extension of the soft inner selves, but it’s not the same. The skin is what we see at the first glance, it’s the same for everyone. It shows the world that we are tough and keeps out the unwanted ones. What is commonly expressed as “when you get to know him better” implies the penetration of this outer skin.

Deep inside all of us, buried under the outer skin and the inner pulp, lays the core, the seed, the crux of who we are. Rarely do we express this or get to know how to express this. This is the part that drives us to go on building relationships and exploring life, in spite of our being shy and fear.

But how does any of this relate to social media?

Social media is about communication. So something that tells us anything about the way we communicate has all to do with social media.

How do you communicate on Facebook? Are you shy to friend people you don’t know too well? Are your friends like your real friends? Do you talk about the things you do or things you think about? Do you share your passions with your followers? Does it feel different to broadcast your messages online or does it feel like normal talk?

Social media: why is it so much about re-placed information?

On social media platforms, we pass on smart quotes, bites of information, mostly news and a lot of other riffraff. We shift information from one place to another – what we read in a magazine, we post it on LinkedIn. The jokes that our friends send us on phone, we post them on Facebook.  We read about an upcoming event in the newspaper, we tweet it.

It’s not a conversation. It’s not communication. All we are doing is copying information from one place, one medium and pasting it on another. Generally, none of this will sound interesting to any of us. But we have started to believe that this is how social media operates. If we don’t want to get left behind, we have to join. Our friends, peers and recruiters (very important) are watching. We can’t be seen as lazy or a non-techie.  So, we all join in the chorus and create more noise.

None of this penetrates the skin of the fruit. We are communicating as much as a thousand apples in a basket.

Fruit salad is not the future. It’s the marmalade!

Until recently, social media was too new for most us. It was a new world which people had only recently discovered.  It lacked what in sociology is known as “Social knowledge.”  The term was coined by Thomas Farrell and roughly means the following:

The goal of this knowledge is to approach some sort of “truth” and consensus for the community’s beliefs, convictions, or values ….The members themselves define this base of narrative knowledge (how to construct and present a narrative). This knowledge is stable for the members’ goal of creating a cohesive narrative. Each member understands what must go into the narrative and what form it must take.

More on this here.

There was no generally agreed principle for behavior, nor were there any properly defined etiquette. We were all trying to strike up a conversation, never knowing the new grammar – a thousand people assembled in a grand hall for a grand ball.

As in any other social habitat, eventually, the rules evolve, the groups emerge and a new society rises. We are getting to see something similar in social media too. Myspace, Facebook, Orkut have remained a dominant mode of online networking for a long time. These platforms, and all such mass-gathering models, are like large department stores. They try to provide everything in one place – friends, colleagues, hobbies, passions, work and fun. While it does provide a certain amount of convenience, it is not always the best idea to mix business and pleasure.

Moreover, despite the numerous communities and groups, these networking sites ca never match the cohesion and passion that smaller communities can. Precisely why, very soon, these large social media sites will not be the only or major way of networking. But there will be smaller interest groups, cliques, clubs, and literary societies where individuals will spend significant amount of their online hours.

In terms of sheer numbers, yes, they will still be the largest. We all need to make those trips to the superstores. But in terms of social time that people spend online, the smaller platforms will have a significant share of this pie.

Rise of small, interest-based social networking sites.Big vs. small

Do a search on Google for interest based social media sites and you will an idea of what I am talking about. Let’s say, I am a writer and I want to show my work to other like minded people, I will not post it on my wall or try to mind readers in the Facebook groups. I will rather go to Figment.

Here are a few more that you will love to see:

  • Ravelry: This site is based around knitting, yes, knitting. And, it has 1.4 million users already.
  • Good Reads: it’s all about books and reading.
  • Dodgeball & Foursquare: The forerunners in mobile networking and arranging instant meet ups.
  • Flixster: Movies, of course.
  • Catster: This is the best place for the cat people.
  • Similarinterests.org: Not yet up but this is one of the most anticipates sites in this domain.
  • Google+: It doesn’t belong here. It is not an interest based social networking. But I have listed it here as it has made a departure from departmental store styled social sites with features, such as Circles. It is a move towards segmentation from one of the big players.

This is not exhaustive. If you know of any others that should be here, please send them to me.