research design laboratory

A Personal Social Media Year in Review

1st Place: Foursquare
With just under 500 checkins, I checked in somewhere more than once a day on average. In practice, I had isolated bursts of frequent checkins and ongoing conversations with friends in the comments. While foursquare gives its users the ability to share their location with the world, I ended up using it to communicate specifically with a small circle of friends who were using the application in a similar way. I found myself rejecting friend requests and trimming my contacts down to a small list of people I actually cared about. It provided a means to passively communicate with people I cared about in real time - like text messaging without expecting a reply. And because the group was small and communication was meaningful, I ended up having the most fun on Foursquare this year.

2nd Place: Path
Path launched in November of 2010 as a Personal Network with a simple but unique constraint given to their users: you can only have 50 friends. Path chose the limit based on the research of Robin Dunbar, an Oxford Professor of Evolutionary Psychology, who suggested that the human brain can sustain a maximum of 150 social relationships at any given time (Path later increased this limit to 150). Path was intended to be a private social network and while this friend limit ruled out any chance for fame that other social networks could provide, it created opportunities for more intimate communication. And it was also beautiful. The first version of the application showed a care for detail not present in most popular applications and the update for Path 2 continued to raise the bar for application interface design. The user interface made using the application fun. And Path is now branding itself as a Smart Journal instead of a social network, and rightly so. With just under 200 moment shared, Path came in a strong second place, losing out to Foursquare only because my Blackberry friends who couldn't use it.

3rd Place: Instagram
Instagram is fun, plain and simple. Professional photographers may despise it for allowing any hipster with an iPhone to feel like they've bypassed art school, but Instagram isn't putting any photographers out of work. The application is easy to use and the photos are cute. With just over 100 photos, I wasn't as prolific as many of my friends, but Instagram probably made me take more photos than ever before. And more than anything I enjoyed the artistic intrusion into my daily life,

Honorable Mention: Fantasy Hockey
My first entry into the world of Fantasy sports was the 2006-2007 season when I was invited to join a league that had already been in place for some time. It didn't go very well. I was "banned for life" from the league for failing to participate. Four years later, that same commissioner graciously let me back into the league on a probationary membership as a team co-manager and after earning my way back into the league and learning that, like many things in life, you get what you put in, I was given my own team this year. Fantasy Sports aren't typically included under the banner of social media, but it's a very social experience with a small group of people and I end up spend more time online there than I do on Twitter and Facebook combined.

Speaking of those other big social networks...

On Twitter, I've been pathetic - 20 tweets in 2011. Here's why.

On Facebook, I've been entirely absent. A year and half ago, I gave up on Facebook. I updated my privacy settings and posted a note on my profile page telling visitors they were better off emailing me. Aside for a few inconsequential appearances and periodically trolling the site to catch up on the lives of old friends, I stopped using facebook. And I don't miss it very much. It's kinda like a shopping mall, I hate being there but still end up having to go a few times a year.

On LinkedIn ...I ... ....yawn ...sorry, I drifted off for a moment there....

On Google+, like many people, I have an account, but I really don't care about it yet. I probably should, but don't yet feel the need to occupy a new space just because it exists. For now, I'm willing to wait until I have a good reason to be there and I haven't found that reason so far. Google will eventually find a way to get their hands on all of my personal information, so I don't feel any need to rush and give it to them.

On Diaspora, I was excited when I first heard about it and had such high hopes, but then I had to wait a year for my invitation, during which period Google+ came out (with a surprising similar design) and began to suffer from a social media fatigue. I still want Diaspora to succeed. Fingers crossed...

Looking back at my last year online, there's a notable inward trend in my social media activity. I've gravitated towards social networks with smaller audiences and shunned interacting in where places that afforded the greatest potential for popularity. I enjoyed social media in 2011, but derived most of my enjoyment from the meaningful communication that took place private networks. Perhaps 2012 will be the year of the social network built for two.