Not long ago social media entered our lives ushering in a new interconnectedness the likes the world had never seen. We connected with neighbors, colleagues, forgotten friends we’d not seen in years. We shared images, updates, opinions, and eventually videos — establishing tribes of likeminded people comforted by likes, retweets, shares, and follows.
As our tribes grew larger, the hunger for engagement became magnified. Soon shock value compounded growth, entertainment replaced fact, and the line between of what was good and what entertained became so blurred that interconnectedness morphed into ‘us vs them’
Whether intentional or not, we became a society of borders. Borders separating countries, people, groups — communities. Even within our micro-societies our borders became even more complex, with majorities and minorities, coalitions of this and that, and the most boisterous speaking for the group drowning out dissent spurred on by their own rolling influence.
Tribes gave way to tribalism, and borders soon gave way to walls, and eventually forts. It wasn’t good enough to connect with likeminded people, we needed to impose thoughts on other groups, seeking out new ways of downplaying others thoughts and beliefs to clamour above the noise and get more attention, more likes, more retweets, more…follows — allowing the ends to justify the means.
We’ve moved so far away from the root good social allows our groups that we’ve forgotten the role groups play in our lives. Classes, colleagues, teams, travel groups, all of them clusterings of likeminded people with a common goal, interest — need.
But all is not lost, and hope still remains. Almost as if on cue, we’ve begun pravatising our chats. We take our small group of trusted people and we choose how to grow it. As families we have chats in trusted rooms encrypted to the outside world. As technologists we speak out against the wrongs of big corporations on foreign platforms well away from the peering eyes of the west. But the question still remains of how we can make these two very different ecosystems meet.
How can we keep the privacy we want, without being harvested for the data we don’t feel the need to give. How can we manage an ‘intimate’ group of engaged people, without being limited by the very nature of social media. Is the answer a sacrifice of privacy to ensure safety? Is the answer giving up smaller pieces of data as a ‘pawns gambit’ in order to save the ability to engage online?
The answer is no.
I believe anonymity should remain in tact. I believe data sacrifice should be the choice of groups, and shared revenue would create a much more level playingfield. I believe the idea that a smaller purer social cannot exist in the bubble of big technologies boundaries. — but I also believe a change must happen at the core of how we engage online.
At The Next Web I will be part of a team announcing a change in how we deal with groups, conversations, and data. The goal isn’t to take on Big Players because this isn’t apples to apples. As ambitious as it sounds, we will be providing organic product in a world only exposed to tinned fruit. That is, showing the world that we can come together and agree, argue, laugh, cry, and organise simply and free of the ephemeral, almost toxic nature of the current social landscape and taking that next logical step in the evolution of social media.
At the core of this change is the notion that the days of you adapting to the social landscape are done — tomorrow’s technology is the technology that adapts to you. But more importantly tomorrows technology isn’t the technology that tracks you, or caters to you, or even transports you — tomorrow’s technology, will be the technology that respects you.
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