Patrick Moorhead is president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, a highly regarded high-tech industry analyst firm focused on the disruptive ecosystems of smartphones, tablets, personal computers, living room devices and social media. New social media service Path promises to bring your true friends (not just acquaintances) together in a much more personal way. However, neither Path, nor Facebook, nor Google+ have fully comprehended that personal circles vary by context, and that context changes rapidly and infinitely.
In the end, while services like Path get us closer to “personal,” they are still very much “broadcast” versions of social media. Ultimately, new services will arise that will allow the user to easily and naturally build relationships, physically meet and communicate with one’s rapidly morphing groups of true friends.
How Humans Interact To fully understand how structured broadcast and personal social models differ, we need to look at real life. First and foremost, people segment friends and groups based on a specific context. To put it simply, there are people we are very close with, people we may have never heard of, but who seem “safe,” then there are thousands of groups in-between. And that context only changes more over time. Even though it sounds confusing, we build and segment groups because the action has been hard-wired into our brains.
The “Broadcast” Social Media Problem The Facebook, Google+ and Path networks liken online interaction to shouting in different-sized movie theaters, each of which contains a different combination of close friends, family members and acquaintances. Most people in the movie theater aren’t even listening; others listen but ignore; and an even smaller group reacts to what’s being said. For most people on the receiving end, a post is typically out of context, irrelevant, doesn’t require a response or was just plain missed. For example, some children aren’t on Facebook during school hours, and many older demographics don’t check notifications on a regular basis, or else they use their accounts for very specific purposes only. What Defines “Personal” Today? I outlined the challenges that come with a “broadcast” model of social media. So what do I mean by “personal?” Quite simply, personal reflects how we interact in the physical world. The infinite number of groups we encounter in the everyday world communicate in a way you would expect: over the phone, through text, BlackBerry Messenger, face to face and via email. However, some of the tools we employ — even in today’s fast-paced digital environment — are slow, inefficient or even inaccessible.
For example, three families may want to go out to dinner after the eighth grade basketball game. Let’s assume there are six parents total and kids don’t get a vote. Just imagine how many texts it will take to arrange this.
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Why Social Media Needs to Get More Personal