"2 Billion Likes per day on Facebook. 400 Million Tweets per day on Twitter. 50 Million likes per day on Instagram."
We live, for most part, a life that is eerily being encroached by the digital. Every day we find a part of the analog being replaced by the digital. An app to replace a board game, a website to answer a question instead of asking a friend, an app to know what's happening instead of looking around and talking. As time goes by, digital, which is even today seen as a secondary dimension, will replace physical as the primary dimension in which we spend our time. I am not suggesting it as necessarily negative, merely pointing it out. Pointing it out, because as we start to put more of our time into it, we need to find a better way to tell others what is worth their time. Make it not just easier to recommend but also valuable and meaningful.
You might answer back, one can like something or fav it or share it and that is an intent of telling others, this is GOOD. This is worth your time. But I feel we have reached a stage where the sheer number of these outbound signals makes them impossible to be taken with discernment.
But it is not just WE, as the users of these systems and tools, who are to be blamed for this state of affairs. As designers and engineers of these bottomless systems, WE are equally to be held responsible. Every thing has to be made simpler, maybe dumber, optimized for one click. Like a story? Just a tap and everyone will know. Found the tweet interesting? Just a click and everyone will see it. The end goal and the most important one is MORE. To get people to do more. More likes, more favs, more reads, more shares, more comments, more hits, more tweets, more status updates. More is not necessarily good. A little bit of friction is a good thing (feel free to take it in either of the two references that came to my mind while writing this).
What is the core difference between a like, a favorite, loving something, digging it, up-voting it, pinning it or any of the other infinite pseudo means we have come up with to express recommendation or curation. We have become digital hoarders. Saving things mindlessly with hopes that we might need it someday. Sharing things without even wondering if they are worth sharing. Recommending things to others without, in many cases, even spending enough time with what we are recommending. Building things that almost embrace people being mindless, casual, and not having to think about it. Why?
At the risk of sounding elitist, I urge fellow craftsmen to build systems that make people think, ponder, wonder and admire. As a litmus test, anything that makes a person think needs to be held as necessarily better than one that does not. For what are we if not thinkers? Recommend something only if you have often gone back to in the past, multiple times. That's when you can be sure this IS great. Have you ever felt wishing for a button that shouts "THIS IS FUCKING BRILLIANT"? Ever tweeted something along the lines of "if you read one thing today, let it be this"? We have been designing systems over optimized for consumption and growth. The shortest path and the graph with the maximum slope is not necessarily better. We are humans, not machines or data points. It is only a shame that even a system meant to notify you that someone liked some creation of yours is optimized for quick scanning.
Think about that for a second. Here is this person expressing their appreciation of your work, however fleeting, however profound. And we consume it in a format suitable for efficiency and skimming? Does not that feel wrong?
- What if you could only have 50 friends on a service?
- What if those friends could only share 1 thing with you each day?
- What if you could like only one thing every day?
See. See. See. See. See. See. See. Appreciate!
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