A plea for a clutter-free social media life
I’m increasingly finding that there are more and more social networks/tools that I read about, that I either don’t see any immediate value in, that aren’t doing anything different to Facebook, or that are far too complex for me to use efficiently. Every now and again though, a new social tool emerges that is so simplistic and that focuses on socialising a completely new area, that I’m compelled to try it and usually end up loving it. What I find is that it’s the simplicity of these tools that gets me hooked. Late last night I read a tweet from someone I follow – Dena Walker- that got me thinking about how social media is evolving and how we, as an educated audience, have to adapt and educate ourselves along with it to continue to gain value from the social technologies that we devote to our time to. Dena’s tweet was a brilliant thought that made me evaluate how I view social media entirely :
Dena’s tweet got me thinking about the social tools that I actually enjoy using the most, and while Dena may have been talking more specifically about the slightly uglier side of social media (trolls etc..), it fit into a much wider trend of how social media is evolving and how, as users choose where to spend our time on those social networks that are both the most efficient and entertaining.
The fact is that there is no shortage of social networks out there, to serve a myriad of purposes, from the general such as Facebook & Twitter, to the niche such as Foodspotting or Instagram. More and more it seems we’re finding the beauty of these social networks that are topic driven, as opposed to being a general forum for discussion, with never-ending buttons and functionality and increasingly new ways to ‘connect’ with people. The problem is that we are already doing that on the big 2 social networks, so now the new way to derive value from social media activity is to find the sites that socialise our day to day activities in a very real way, as opposed to something being social for the sake of it.
Beauty in simplicity
My absolute favourite social tool of the moment is Instagram. I’m not an especially keen photographer, and nor do I use the app every single day by any means. But what Instagram came along and did was to provide a simple platform for me to follow other people’s pictures, integrating cleanly with Twitter and Facebook (providing an add-on, not launching a competing service) and when I do want to take a picture, I turn to Instagram to do this. Firstly for the technology in actually editing photos, which was fairly innovate in itself, but also the sheer simplicity. One click and I’m done, I can follow other people, like their photos & comment easily. I don’t have to create groups of people in order for the service to work for me, import contacts or read 10 ‘how to’ guides before I could figure it out. The beauty of Instagram lies in the simplicity : unnecessary social widgets stripped out, focusing on their core product of photos and finding a seamless way to socialise this through our existing networks.
Why I (probably) won’t be using Google +
It’s for this reason that I most likely won’t be using Google +. While I’ve obviously checked the site out and read endless articles about it, I cannot yet see how it can add value beyond what I can do on Twitter. I see the most natural alignment here between g+ and Twitter, as opposed to Facebook, as all my connections so far are also on Twitter and the same seems to be true of many people that I’ve connected with. The simplicity of Twitter means that it’s already functioning perfectly well for me and I can’t immediately see what additional value g+ can drive, other than longer updates, which I’m not sure I need. The fact is that they launched a fully-functioning social network, whereas a better product may have been something with a more niche focus, such as a network for sharing and storing links discovered online.
As it is, G+ is simply far too complex to pull me away from Twitter or Facebook. Circles, for example, isn’t something that I’m currently used to online, so there has to be a pretty good reason for me to start using this, and other features, when it seems the community of people on there is no different to who I’m engaging with every day anyway. Google hasn’t addressed a significant enough problem with this offering and right now I’m in doubt about the long-term potential of the site.
Topic-driven social networks
Conversely, many smaller startups are focusing on particular topics or subjects, that allow you to build new connections than you would on Twitter or Facebook and discover more niche content. Pinterest is a great example on this. When I first used the site in January this year, what I noticed was how much time I was spending browsing through other people’s boards when I was looking for fashion inspiration, interior design etc.. And what I was finding was brand new content from brand new people. People that I wouldn’t necessarily then connect with on Twitter, because the connecting factor was purely in that specific subject. And sometimes that is enough. Everyone we connect with online doesn’t have to be a lifelong friend or follower. Rather we can connect with them in the right space for that specific subject and gain more from the relationship than we might by following day to day just because that’s what we’re supposed to do.
The function of these tools is to be there and ready to use when you need them. If you use Foodspotting for example, you might only use it once a week when you’re eating out, or looking for nearby inspiration for a night out. And that’s kind of okay. With so many social networks that spring up, there are so many calls to action to import all the contacts you know, receive on the spot notifications when new content arrives, and continually connect, connect and connect again. These more functional social tools, whether they’re in food, sport, film, business etc.. are where social media is headed, and indeed, where it needs to head. I am constantly aware of the fact that we only have so much time to spend in social tools and still derive value of any sort, before it just becomes a mess of content and connections.
These are social tools more than social networks and they show how the mechanics of social networks can be adapted in a more simplistic way, to actually affect day to day life, as opposed to being something that is always there, that we’re afraid to step out of. I can go without using Instagram for a month if I want, then still get exactly the same out of it when i decide to use it again. If you do the same with Twitter for example, you’ll find you have to re-educate yourself and re-integrate with your community on there.
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