Here’s my beef with social platforms today: I don’t think they’re very social at all.
As much as Google+, Facebook, and Pinterest promise a way to connect, they’ve also promoted a disconnect—sharing on different platforms, proving a fragmented sense of keeping tabs on any social network. We can track our connections’ job promotions on LinkedIn, photos from their new office on Facebook, and hear their celebratory music on Spotify—but what about how these all link together? And what about the platforms themselves? Unfortunately, competition currently drives their existence.
Specifically, these days every startup, brand, journalist, etc. has set out to associate themselves with the craze that is "social curation": What is this Pinterest? Why is it so popular? What industry trend can I tie this to and how can my brand capitalize on it? We’re all so quick to polarize ourselves because we don’t truly understand it. We don’t know why it’s so addicting and that scares us. We don’t know how it got to 10 million users so quickly. Instead, we analyze and we obsess—but no, we still don’t understand it. That might be because we’re not diagnosing it correctly. No one is really looking at the bigger, underlying picture—the fact that social curation isn’t really social at all.
It’s not social, it’s selfish.
Social curation companies like Pinterest, Storify, and Foodspotting are essentially creating hubs for crowdsourcing interests like wedding ideas, hipsterized photos, and tweets that appear social on the surface. At the core, though, social curation is incredibly self-centered. Pins of things that I want, pictures of food I ate, tweets about stories I read. There’s no sense of community—no we, ours, or us involved. People only post and repin the things with the hope that someone might like it, Tweet it, share it, but essentially we do it in a silo to please ourselves—there is no collaboration integrated into these platforms, yet. Today’s social platforms are innately self-centered because that is how they have been conditioned to be over time and more often than not people are just blindly pushing out content, not actually sharing what we like, bought, saw, need, want with others. We collaborate and work together in the office—so why not with our buddies at Sunday Brunch, compiling videos, photos, tweets, and more from last night’s concert?
Our so called "social" worlds have become flat and one-dimensional, just like the static content we curate on a daily basis. Where’s the collaboration? Wedding photographers cull together separate videos of the bride and groom, so why can’t we? Is it even possible to have an internet ecosystem that is brought on by a collaborative effort—a group of people at a bar or classroom or concert?
Riding social fatigue into next wave of social curation
Being constantly inundated with our social updates tires us out—we’re fatigued and we’re annoyed with each other. Here’s why: while it is true that no one care’s about your trip to Mexico, your weird tastes in music and the dinner that you just made, we still want to be involved. But we hate the self-serving. We’re re-pinning and re-tweeting without context, without collaboration. The Internet will always suffer from social media fatigue until it allows for seamless collaboration among multi-platforms, multi-dimensions, and multi-media. This may be idealistic view but it’s not impossible.
Collaboration has the ability to reduce the selfish nature of social media and transform the act of curation into a more sophisticated action. Collaborative curation has the potential for a brand and a shopper, a group of friends, perhaps even quarreling bloggers to create something relevant together. Imagine a world where Michelle Obama can collaborate on spring styles with Marie Claire magazine and Tim Gunn on Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter. Or what if MG Siegler and Dan Lyons collaborated on an argument, visually depicting their thoughts. Or what if a musician in Africa and a film student in New York came together to tell a story? What would that look like?
Social curation has the potential to be more than a wedding Pinboard or a hipsterized photo. My hope that social curation becomes social, becomes collaborative—a dynamic way of sharing multimedia content with others to create results with substance. I believe in a better way to curate, taking the genius behind Storifying, Pinning, and Instagraming and elevating it to create global connections. Now, one question that remains—is technology willing to open itself to collaboration?
So what's next?
The web is changing daily, and with the advent of each new social platform, it's imperative that humans and technology shift to working together, to create actual curated, collaborative content. Do you think that a collaborative social world even possible?
[Image: Flickr user Aftab Uzzaman]