This is what we had touched upon years back -
Formation of Giant networks, and the need to enhance quality of connections rather than quantity.
There are other aspects as well, which were discussed in an analysis presented several years back. This analysis combined several perspectives as presented below:
1. SNA AND GIANT NETWORKS
2. ANTHROPOLOGICAL - ROBIN DUNBAR #
3. MANAGEMENT AND THE CONCEPT OF CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE
4. IN TERMS OF SCIENCE, VALENCE ELECTRONS AND DISTANCE AWAY FROM THE NUCLEUS
5. EPIDEMIOLOGY - SPREAD OF DISEASES IN SMALLER vs GIANT GROUPS
6. BALLOON RUMOR THEORY
Originally shared by Eli Fennell
So, I've been really thinking a lot about how social media has gone wrong, and I think I have a few ideas. They're crazy ideas... ideas most of you would honestly probably not be seeing this right now if implemented... but I'm starting to think they make a lot of sense.
First, there's the matter of the Dunbar's Number. Named for the Psychologist Robin Dunbar, this number is the theoretical upper limit for the number of stable social relationships a social creature like a human can maintain, and which is based on their average group sizes over evolutionary periods of history. For humans, this is roughly 150-or-so people. On Facebook, I don't know many people, even normal people, who don't easily blow past this number in their Friends List. Of course, a Friends List includes people we might readily admit are not Stable Social Relationships, i.e. not Friends, a contradiction which Google+ tried unsuccessfully to exploit as an advantage with Circles (which were simply too much work to set up, maintain, and use even if all your friends joined you, which rarely happened). This contradiction arises because, whatever else they may call them, the major social networks treat these not as Friends, Family, Loved Ones, and perhaps some valued Colleagues and Notable Persons, but as a list of who Follows you and who you Follow, for whatever reasons at all. At times, these networks, especially Facebook, have challenged a variety of other communication technologies and apps due to their near ubiquity.
I think this is a big problem. We've got a whole bunch of different types of things blending together there in unholy ways. Users may be starting to see it, too, because many are switching away for various purposes, to messengers, to photo sharing apps and services (e.g. Google Photos for personal sharing, Instagram for more general photo sharing), or by just reducing their time and presence on the network and returning to traditional ways of keeping up. We blew so far past the Dunbar's Number, it is unmanageable.
So, I believe social networks should incentivize users to maintain smaller connection lists, or far better segregated ones, as a general rule. One way to do this might be to gamify it. For example, users could gain some kind of Points, Badges, Stickers, Bonus Features, or other 'goodies' if they set up various 'List' or 'Circle'-like groupings of their connections based on types. For example, a list of Family, Best Friends, Friends, Valued Colleagues, People Who Inspire Me (e.g. public figures and leaders of note you follow), etc..., could help to segregate and prioritize the stuff the network shows them from their connections (and maybe what they show those connections from you, e.g. if both of you put each other in Family or Close Friends or Valued Colleagues Lists). In addition, the network can inform the user of how this has improved their social experience, e.g. 'We'll show you more from your Family, unless you tell us to show less from some of them!' or 'We'll prioritize your religious posts from/for your Bible Study List so you/they will see more of them!' These are just some broad examples, but there are many clever ways this could be done to reward the user and help them understand the benefits.
Alternatively, as opposed to Lists, a user could be encouraged in general to keep their number of connections smaller, for example by defaulting to a non-algorithmic (e.g. chronological) feed if the user keeps their connections low (maybe even giving them a total like 'With your current number of Connections, you'll only see 23% of all Posts by your Connections. Reduce that to X Number to see 100%!' or, if they reach that Number X, 'Congratulations! You're seeing All New Posts by your connections from the past X Number of Hours/Days!').
Finally, a way to more actively restrict this, would be to eliminate the default Public Post option available on most networks and make users EARN the right to go Public, which could also be gamified, e.g. "You've earned this many Good Reputation Points, Earn X More To Unlock Public Posting!", along with some penalties by which this may be temporarily or permanently lost, preferably according to clear user guidelines rather than ad hoc and arbitrary ones.
Beyond the Dunbar's Number issue, I see another issue that goes to the core of social media design: the 'Feed'/'Stream' of Posts and/or Comments is atrocious. Social life should not be like the newspaper, to scan over and flit hither and thither therein. Yet social life online is almost invariably this. What is worse, it fails to take advantage of some of its best humanizing elements. For example, instead of a Feed of Posts, the networks could take inspiration from the Swipe-Right-Or-Left style of Tinder. Each Post, then, would be given a proper showcase. Profile photos, usually squint-level small on the screen, could be made much more prominent (or enhanced with different approaches like animated gif photos, short videos, short voice clips, AI-generated selfie-mojies, etc..), thereby essentially FORCING you to visually process the person behind the Post. Comments on the Post, likewise, could be showcased in this manner, with Reactions (e.g. Likes, Loves, Favorites, +1's, etc...) brought together visually with the comments (e.g. John Loved This Post and Commented...) and again with prominent, big profile pics or other humanizing avatars or elements. Like Tinder, a swipe one way could indicate 'Show Me More Posts Like This' and a swipe another way 'Show Me Less', thereby getting a granular sense over time of our true reactions to things and not our overall reactions to a mere subset of stuff in a stream where most of it we payed no real attention to. Going even farther, Posts and their Comments could be turned into ongoing 'Stories', where the Comments, Reactions, and other activity paint a 'picture' of how we and our connections are engaging around it. I believe these things could help users engage better with each other online and make that engagement more meaningful for them.
Then, there's the matter of the network suggesting any type of content to users of its own accord. Networks may do this in two ways: promoting content directly, such as Recommended Posts or Trending News Stories. The other way, is to treat a user behavior as a sharing signal which was not meant to be one, such as showing a Post someone Liked or Commented on but did not Share to their connections. In the case they are only letting people with shared connections know about engagement with their shared connections, this may make sense, but in any other case is really a betrayal of the entire model. It means that users cannot simply interact organically with a Post, without this in and of itself promoting that Post to the attention of others. These approaches should, more-or-less, end. Users should be able, of course, to seek such suggestions if they wish and the network will provide them, but in no way should these be pushed onto them, with perhaps some leeway during initial account setup.
And finally, the issue of Reactions: Reactions are not bad in and of themselves, but easily become serial dopamine hits. Things like Likes roll in one at a time, usually without context even if the Reactor has also commented (e.g. the Reactions are shown one place, the comments the other, excluding reactions to the comments themselves), and we're shown an aggregate number, in this case an element of gamification that should not exist. The number of Reactions should not matter, nor should a Reaction in and of itself matter, but only in context or as part of painting a bigger picture like 'Your friends really care about you! Your Family thought your joke was hilarious! Your Colleagues found that topic inspiring!' In truth, the 'Serial Dopamine Hits' version of Reactions, in any form, is blatantly designed to be addictive and ought to be outlawed, or at least forbidden to children.
Yes, I know, none of this will happen. There's bajillions of bucks to be made, and the ideas I'm proposing, and others I'm sure I haven't considered yet, would prioritize making social media a positive and healthy tool for online social engagement and reward users for helping make it that, at the cost of a lot of unhealthy Time On Service and Like Bombing. A man can dream, though. A man can dream.
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