Day 13 ~ what’s next?

I don’t know anyone who loves Facebook unreservedly. Even those of us who have been on it for a decade, more or less, can’t remember a time when we 100% adored the platform. Facebook has a habit of making “improvements” no one asked for and telling us what we want to see or share — the throttling of the feed is particularly egregious.

We’re all spread out across different networks and even those of us who LOVE one or the other tend to cross-platform just a little. No one really likes this spread but on the other hand, we are unanimously opposed to putting all our ships into one port, as Google+ found out to its detriment.

Me? I’ve gone through and still use a lot of them. A partial list of my social networking escapades includes multiple facebook accounts, multiple twitter accounts, multiple livejournal accounts, multiple tumblr accounts, instagram, flickr, vine, google+, reddit, myspace, the old USEnet and multiple transient accounts across Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft, Adobe, and random online forums. Oh, and a pinterest site I never update.

I’ve been “online” since 1996, so don’t look so surprised.

Usually, there is chatter about something “new” on the horizon. I heard about tumblr a year before it really “broke out” and became popular; I’ve had people telling me to use Medium for a couple of years, even though I really just started using it recently. I joined Facebook in mid-2007 after several months of being harassed by friends about it, as all of us were sick and tired of the cluttery nonsense at myspace, but I did so reluctantly and only because I did not understand twitter at all. How innocent I was!

I’ve also heard of a few “busts” in my time, including dreamwidth.org and, yes, Google+ (both of which still have a LOT of users, so are hardly failures in the true sense of the word; they just have not garnered the social impact they (and their core useres) were hoping for). Facebook clones such as diaspora are absolutely zero threat to Facebook.

The question is, what do we really want? Connection. That’s really the alpha and omega of it: connection. It’s what I wanted out of any new network I joined. Facebook crowded out a lot of others over time, as did tumblr, but they are very different things serving very different needs.

Which is the key to this whole preamble, because after all, how well do we know what we need? And so few needs are universal; connection is one of the few, which makes social networks popular. But how and why those connections are made, and thrive, are very individual. What I miss most about Livejournal is something that only a few people in my large group of friends would “get,” for instance. Facebook nor tumblr nor even Medium can satisfy that, but then again, neither can Livejournal anymore due to changes (both personal to me and to LJ as a corporation).

Facebook does well with meeting different user tastes insofar that it is asynchronous in nature but also provides real-time chat, as well as options for posting, sharing, and discussing a wide range of media. Twitter is popular for similar reasons (although personally I find the brevity of it annoying…but that’s just me). Here’s the challenge they (and nearly every other network) face, which is very much a technical challenge as much as it is a policy one:

Volume.

Basically, there are a HELL OF A LOT OF US posting a HELL OF A LOT OF CONTENT.

Facebook throttles “views” which is annoying as fuck, because I’m friends with all these people for a reason, namely, I want to see the content they post (yes, even what they ate for lunch, okay?). The flip side is twitter, which is a real-time ticker-tape of everything, everywhere so that if you have more than, say, 50 connections you are easily overwhelmed by the tweets and sink into the muck of media overload.

Self-curated “lists” and “circles” and “favorites” are the solutions everyone is offering, but something is missing. I wish I could put my finger on what it is.

So, I feel the time is ripe for a new network to burst onto the scene and change everything. Maybe those days are over? But I’m waiting for it. I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy it. I know for a fact I’m looking forward to leaving Facebook in the dust…I have no true loyalty to the platform, nor does anyone I know, which is a problem Facebook is going to feel keenly when we all jump ship because some new whippersnapper solves our “connection” problem in a way that doesn’t force us to abdicate or suffer under the “volume” problem.

Haven’t seen it yet. But I’m ready for it.