Jed Cohen

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Social Media Fatigue

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I’ve  been experiencing social media fatigue over the last few weeks.  I’m not sure why, and I don’t know how to stop it.  What is interesting to me about this though it that social media is an entirely voluntary experience.  I choose to log into Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, FriendFeed, Digg, etc, and if I want to leave all I have to do is close my web browser.  So why should I feel overwhelmed with social media when I choose when I want to interact with it?

Take a look at the right hand side of this page and you’ll see a list of links to a few social media sites I’m on.  I’ve signed up for so many services, I can’t begin to assemble a full list.  Tumblr, Posterous, Delicious, YouTube, Disqus, Google, Scribd, SlideShare, and on and on and on.  My accounts on some of these sites are just placeholders in case I decide one day to use whatever features that platform provides.  And what I’ve listed here just scratches the surface of what is online.  What does the fact that there are websites like namechk dedicated solely to checking username availability tell us about the space that social media occupies?

This may perhaps be at odds with my last post, as there I was all excited about the growth of the third dimension of the social graph.  But as social functions are built into more and more websites, we run the risk of being unable to isolate ourselves from others online if we want to.  And why would we want to?  Any number of reason I suppose, from frustration with spam to a desire for privacy to a temporary bout of misanthropy.

Remember that work/life balance concept you may have heard of?  I wonder if we should begin to focus on a physical/digital balance as well as more and more people, companies, and brands enter the digital space.  As high speed mobile internet access spreads, should we be working to grow the number or quality of the interactions we participate in in the real world to match?  What happens when we shift more and more online to a hyperconnected web that lacks many of the nonverbal cues we use during in person interactions?  How can we stay engaged and focused when we flit from platform to platform like a hummingbird amongst the flowers?  And can we afford to take a break from social media to relax and focus on the real world without harming other’s perceptions of us?

Hopefully my social media fatigue will resolve itself soon.  In the meantime, I suppose I’ll be observing more than participating – which is one of the pluses of digital interactions I suppose.

Written by Jed

July 19th, 2009 at 8:48 pm

The Third Dimension of the Social Graph

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Welcome to the world of the social web.

These days, social media websites are no longer siloed off from one another; they are integrated entities, working together.  I can post my Twitter updates to my Facebook profile, throw in what I’m listening to on Pandora, export that all to my blog, and post it to any number of aggregators.  Each one of those websites has its own set of connections, the people I follow, or friend, or connect with.  And each of those individuals sits on my “social graph.”   If you’re not familiar with it, this just what it sounds like – a map of all of your social connections, and those connected to who you’re connected to, and so on and so forth.

What is interesting is that not all the ties on your graph are the same.  Consider the weak tie hypothesis of networking theory/sociology, which accounts for the development of social ties between disparate groups of people.  Basically, a lot of strong ties implies a close knit network where you know everyone well, while weak ties tend to imply a far reaching, varied social network with weaker relationships.  Thus someone with many weak ties is likely to have a large net of information to draw from, but the relationships will not be as deep.  (This, by the way, has many personal networking implications, but I think I’ll leave those to the networking experts).

I suppose it is then fitting that what I really want to talk about is a different kind of “weak tie,” one in which not separate people come together, but separate services and items.  I mentioned above some 0f the examples linking each social media service to one another, but there is another level to this as well – one that moves beyond just social media.  Specifically, I am thinking about the relatively recent rise of the interconnectedness between what we traditionally call social media and “non-social” websites.  To spell it out in terms of Facebook and Twitter, this would be Facebook Connect and the Twitter API.  Both expand the social graph beyond the two dimensional world of who you know and who knows you.  They allow for a world of three dimensions, one where every user can plug additional information into their social graph if they wish.  Here are two examples.  Facebook Connect allows you to log into Digg with your Facebook account and digg stories; this action can then be transmitted back to your Facebook account, telling your friends what you’ve done.  On the Twitter side of things, Spymaster allows you to assume the role of a covert agent and assassinate (and recruit) your fellow Twitter users, while also posting updates to your stream about your not so covert activities.

These, and other websites, are using the social aspects of social media outside of the traditional realm of the “social network” – the 2D relationship of being someone’s “friend.”  (I suppose that one could argue that the unidirectional nature of Twitter is a 1D relationship, but that’s not the point….however interesting its implications are.)  The point is that this information builds upon the basics provided by the social platform of your choice.  It’s not just your bio on your profile anymore; it’s also how you use the web.  And I think that that is the third dimension of the social graph.

This can be even more powerful if you start to look at ways that the social graph of the digital world can interact with the physical one.  Consider Nike+, which tracks users’ runs.  That too can be tied into Facebook (and Twitter).  Or BakerTweet, which tweets when the Albion Cafe in London has freshly baked goodies ready to sell.  There are many other examples of this type of crossover as well (see the plant that tweets, the washing machine that tweets, the cat door that tweets…..I’m sensing a pattern here folks).  What they’re all doing though is contributing to this third dimension on the social graph.

What’s the end result?  Don’t know.  It could be an interconnected, always on social world web, one where you can attach as much information to your identity as you’d like from a variety of sources.  Or it could be a layer of social networking information floating over the real world, one that tells you what your friends are doing at all times.  Or it could be the next way to meet new people, allowing users to find friends and business partners by interest, activity, or likes.  Or it could be all of these (one can argue it already is).  What remains though is that the social networks of today have opened their borders to one another, allowing users to access information from the digital and the physical, bringing the social web to conceivably every aspect of our lives – personal, professional, public, and beyond.

Regardless of how it turns out, I imagine this 3D social graph is going to be quite the interesting place to be.  And it’s one I hope to take advantage of.

Written by Jed

July 6th, 2009 at 11:00 pm