Often, big thoughts emerge from small coincidences. Interesting thoughts blossom when fed by two divergent influences, the intersections.
I saw a pair of Tweets back to back today, and they got me thinking.
Technology cannot replace people. You can’t have a relationship with a database.
Social media report: Twitter most effective for click-thrus, yielding 19.04 clicks vs. Facebook’s 2.87: http://ow.ly/2ScTW
At first glance, Cam and Alexis (two amazing thinkers on my “People to have coffee with one day” list) seem to be at odds. But not really. Yes, one pines for the gentility and authenticity of actual personal connection – the other coldly notes a data point that drills to a level of absurd statistical precision.
But the truth is, that’s all of us in there.
Our complexity is rooted in our brains, and the wonderful division of labor in our grey matter. It includes zones of specialty that are redundant and fluid, which allow us to not just process more than one thing at a time, but to be more than one thing at a time. You can be a Marine, or an improv comic, or both. You don’t have to choose.
With multiple processing centers running in parallel, it’s normal for individuals to be divided on issues. “My heart tells me _______, but my brain tells me _______.” Often, there is no way to resolve this Gordian knot of logic and emotion, and we’re left with another choice: cognitive dissonance, or outright denial. Strict behaviorists, by the way, will tell you to ignore the expressed thoughts and feelings, and simply watch what people do. According to the Behaviorists, those who spend all day on Facebook complaining about how Facebook is the problem with society are a part of the problem.
Looking beyond the wiring of our brains, and into the network of our relationships, Facebook is being hailed for making another step toward the Search for Relevance. The new Groups feature is supposed to mimic the way we would map our acquaintances and friends, with several large “spheres of relation.” These Hemispheres sometimes overlap, and often don’t. My loops?
- People I graduated high school with
- People I went to college with
- People I went to school with in Idaho
- People I go to church with
- People I used to go to church with
- Marketers and communicators who share great ideas
- People with interesting political beliefs
- People I worked with in TV
- People I worked with at Red Cross
- People I work with now
- People I know in Birmingham
- People I studied Kung Fu with
…and the list could conceivably go on for a while longer. I am currently using Facebook’s list feature to curate all these Hemispheres, but only 1 in 20 accounts use this feature. Facebook Groups is supposed to be the answer to bringing “relevance by segmentation” to the masses. But it will not work as advertised.
Groups and Masses
Groups seem like great ad-hoc ways to divide your online experience, so you’re only sharing things that are relevant to the people in that circle. This might be wonderful, or it might be horribly disastrous.
Let’s say someone created a Group for my fantasy football league. 16 people, we keep it nice and private, and we’re able to trash talk as nasty as we’d like without being noise in other people’s streams. That would be an effective implementation — if indeed everyone were on Facebook. Private groups would be better if there were ways for non-Facebook users to subscribe by email.
Now let’s consider the public Groups with a wider interest. What do you suppose is going to happen when someone creates a Group called “Tea Party Rally?” Or a group called “Social Media for Realtors?” Or one called “Technology for Educators?”
I see much potential for abuse, spamming, hard-core marketing pitches, and sabotage.
I also see a lot of disenfranchised and disengaged people, who were at first attracted to the oncoming rush of great ideas and insights from people with similar interests, but in the end trailed away because they lacked something.
Corpus Callosi of Networks
In the realm of personal relationships and networks, you are the Corpus Callosum, the part that unites the Hemispheres. You are the common denominator through which all those networks flow. You grab ideas from one, and take them into another. But in order to do that, you must first be connected to the Hemispheres!
I can already subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds of various topics, find ways to weave them together, and synthesize something new and interesting. I don’t need social networks for that. What makes the social networks “special” in that regard is that I know the people there, and they know me. In a large public Facebook Group, you’re looking at too many strangers with too many mixed motives, and you’re not looking at enough of your friends.
You can’t be a nexus for so many divergent things when you’re not truly connected to them.
Alexis, marketer-by-day, improv comedienne-by-night, who shares a nugget of truth from the depths of statistical nerdery.
Both prove in a short period of time that they are more than just the sum of their interests. They are the nexus of their interests. And in their happy juxtaposition within my timeline, they yield another truth, where *I* am the nexus:
“You can’t have a relationship with a database, but databases might yield useful information about our relationships.”