We used to interact with a small number of people everyday, and a larger number of people on an irregular basis. Today, i interact with hundreds of people every day through social media channels. My broadcast persona is infinitely bigger than it ever was before, my span and reach is much wider, and all of this happened without me ever thinking about it.
‘Normal’ changed, and i never noticed.
Facebook is in the unusual position of changing the shape of the field and also changing how we behave on that field. It’s redefining the rules of the game as well as playing the game. It convinced us that publicly sharing information was what we wanted (or it facilitated our innate desire to broadcast information) and it enabled us to grow networks to do this with. There is no doubt that there are benefits to the model: being able to reach more people more quickly can be a great thing, although there is a counter argument that the nature and depth of those encounters is more shallow.
In other words, Facebook allows you to know more people, but to know less people well. Indeed, it may actively dilute or distil the quality of those relationships that are already deep. This may sound rather philosophical, but it’s a serious point: there is only so much time to spend on building meaningful relationships and, with people on average spending half an hour a day on Facebook, the time must be coming from somewhere.
Facebook is great for building instant communication with groups of people, but increasingly the focus is on the commercialisation of these social spaces. The impact of this is yet to be felt to any real degree, but it will change the nature of our interactions both with each other and with Facebook itself. This is always the trial and challenge for organisations that are personified by strong characters: Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, all of these have a named, key person at the heart of their story. Our relationship with the company is as much about our relationship with that person. The trust that we put in the company is as much about our trust in that person.
With social platforms, this is more important than ever. Successful growth depends upon a level of trust and understanding of the true nature of the relationship. We need to believe that the foundations are solid, that we are working in a social space. If the balance tips too far towards the commercial, we will either abandon it or change our behaviours to more those of the consumer. Whenever i fill in ‘marketing’ forms to get something free, i make all the data up. After all, why would i trust them with my real data?
When the value of the platform lies in sharing real data, this trust element is paramount.
Like it or not, Facebook has already changed how we communicate. It’s changed fundamentally the ways in which we interact with our friends and associates. With over half of the UK’s population on it, with over 800 million people worldwide signed up, with half of those accounts active every single week, it’s an enormous community.
‘Normal’ communication must now include an understanding of and engagement with this ‘broadcast’ role, the one to many nature of the social medium. How this changes who we are and what we do is only just starting to be understood.