What if social media, as it functions today, was merely the first step towards a new sophistication in human interaction? We must admit it has its fascinating aspects, as we are inherently social beings. Yet, watching the development so far, one thing is for sure, human interactions can be as subtle and sophisticated as an elegant waltz and as unsophisticated, clunky and childish as a game of dodge ball. Of course, the worst most unsophisticated versions of things appear first and become wildly popular. Just as music may have started with the beating of a primitive drum, now we have symphonies. Eventually, they become more refined, more poetic, or in other words, they finally grow up.
We spoke with great friend of The Little Squares, Randy Komisar, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, Silicon Valley's leading venture capital firm, about the state of social media, and he agrees, we're not quite there yet.
"Social media clearly has a lasting, enduring place in the technosphere, it's not going anywhere, but it's clear to me that it's very primitive in its attempt to capture the value of relationships."
So in our current social situation, what is going on? It's about a couple of things. One as we have mentioned, is this childish attitude we always seem to have to new shiny sparkly things. We are so easily seduced by simple marvels, like watching a young child's face when you blow a bubble and the sunbeams make its fragile universe sparkle with wonder as it floats away. That's the magic moment. And its exactly what is happening with these social communities that are forming around very simple and usually unsophisticated groups who are commenting, liking, following and participating, not only through Facebook, but also in newly forming worlds, new "bubbles" like Instagram, where everyone takes super processed digital images of anything and they are truly fascinated with their computer generated sunset or landscape and millions of other cool people with cool names say "Wow, cool pic!" or "Awesome shot!", just like a three year old watches his bubble float away, simply mesmerized.
"One of the dangers in media, as we have blown the doors off of distribution, is without that constraint, it's really hard to sort through everything. And there are so many voices. There are no gatekeepers, so we have to figure out how to protect ourselves from the garbage. Garbage makes me crazy. I love the web, but I hate stumbling through the garbage."
"How are we going to truly express ourselves in ways that others truly can consume and enjoy and share? How are we going to relate to others in meaningful ways in a virtual medium? But in a much more natural way than us all having a high school locker in the hall way with pictures pinned inside when you open it up. Its not who we are anymore, not even most of Facebook's customers, but were kind of locked into that paradigm."
Eventually, we will look back at the silliness of its uses and declarations of what it all means and have a laugh. In fact, lets laugh right now. Even the concept that political movements, protests and popular uprisings are somehow the result of Twitter or Facebook should be insulting to every high school history teacher. Martin Luther certainly didn't need Twitter and I would argue along with many a watchdog group that reliance on technology in the wrong place at the wrong time could be the ultimate undoing of a social uprising that really counts. There have been popular uprisings against powers that be long before anyone could read or write, let alone post video to their Facebook "timeline" directly through their smart phone.
Another example of this childlike behavior is the rise of "the fear of missing out." It seems like every technology marketing campaign talks about giving one the ability to never miss the party. And that means every party. All the time.
"The fear of missing out is the new psychosis driving the valley. It's amazing to watch, because almost all of the behaviors we see in the valley are natural behaviors of certain age groups, but they get amplified across other age groups largely because of the money involved. So I always liken it to, you know, the 60-year-old guy trying to fit into tight jeans to fit in. They are trying to do that here in Silicon Valley because that's where the money is.
"Kids are naturally insecure about who they are and what other people think about them and "the fear of missing out" and "who's the best," but for all of us to act like kids everyday does us all a disservice. And that's what you find in the valley is that "fear of missing out" is driving this entire engine for not just the kids, which is quite natural for them, but to adults and people who should know better. And people who should demand more. And want more from all this than reverting back to their insecure adolescence."
So lets demand more. While Silicon Valley keeps funding new games of dodge ball, its up to us to decide to "sit this game out." The systems are out there and technology will allow eventually for the development of scaled experiences that reflect more grown-up wonders.