Social Vanity

Social Vanity By Steven Kovar • 2 min read

So vain are we. Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter. We Like it; we Love it; we spend countless hours on it. For what?

Social media is a talent trap. It's where good, honest manhours go to die. If only we spent as much time producing something with our passion as we do seeking karma and self-gratification. Don't Re-pin that recipe because the cake looks delicious; go make it yourself and post a picture of your creation! Don't obsess over your Facebook Likes or Twitter Follower counts; these numbers are meaningless without context—without that actual 1-to-1 relationship.

This, in my mind, is the next obstacle for the social web to overcome. How do we turn each marginal minute of our time online from 'wasted' to 'invested' with these tools? A rather sobering perspective on this time wasting is described by Youssef Sarhan as the Facebook Like Paradigm.

Today Facebook enjoys 800 Million users; I’d guess, very conservatively, that Facebook processes about 2 billion Likes a day now.

This is where it gets depressing..

Let’s say it takes just 1 second to click a Like button.

2 billion Likes per day * 1 second = 2 billion seconds per day.

2 billion seconds equates to… wait for it… 63 years.

That's 63 years of collective time people don't get back, every day, spent clicking buttons on websites; and that number is only for Facebook. This time sink total is an indicator of Facebook's prosperity, but at what cost does such prosperity come? Reid Hoffman observes that the success of a social network often correlates with its connection to one of the seven deadly sins.

Social networks do best when they tap into one of the seven deadly sins… With Facebook, it’s vanity, and how people choose to present themselves to their friends. It’s the feeling of being connected. I like to emphasize the importance of the deep universal, psychological structure in people’s minds… These are fundamentals for having a fulfilling quality of life.

Additionally, Hoffman suggests acting on these vices via social networks is important because it improves social connectivity versus traditional media, which I agree is true. However, an obsession over vanity metrics has driven down the quality of content generation. If I post more of what other people will like, I'll get more Followers, Likes, or Re-pins. Ultimately, the social stream is re-run after re-run as the popular content works its way to the top, from rageface memes to designer dresses.

We need to remove this emphasis on empty metrics from social media so people can stop looking in the mirror at their own Likes and Followers and focus on the real benefits that lie beneath: the relationships they've fostered, the things they've learned, the good they've done for someone else... the context that numbers can't articulate.

Join the conversion on Hacker News.


Published in #Thoughts.

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