Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Self Documentation

I think people underestimate the potential longevity of "social media". The fail to see the forest for the trees. They see that specific sites have popularity lifecycles (e.g. LiveJournal and MySpace) but fail to see the overall trends or place them within the larger historical context. Simply put, people have a compulsion to document their lives. People have a compulsion to be social. All that FaceBook, BlogSpot, Twitter and the like are is an extension of these compulsions.

Our primitive ancestors drew pictograms and glyphs on cavewalls.

Clans, tribes and communities sat around communal fires telling stories of their daily exploits and of their ancestors epics and sagas.

People who have had the capability of recording their thoughts in writing have kept journals, exchanged letters or otherwise recorded their lives and their thoughts for themselves and, in some cases, posterity. How many history shows or articles have you seen that have centered around uncovering the lost journals, letters, etc. of the famous, infamous and the "Average Joe"?

Granted, the mid/late 20th century saw a wane in personal writing. It saw the beginning of the decline of the personal letter and the diary. But, it also saw a proliferation of camera ownership. "Regular people" had anything from big, fancy, professional rigs down through Polaroids and disposable cameras. These days, though film seems to be dying, it's replaced by digital cameras with ever more MegaPixels - and cameras are ubiquitous on converged devices like cell phones.

Cell phones, themselves, are just another extension of this desire to record and share. How many people walking down the street, absorbed in their phones, are doing anything more than sharing their lives with the people on the other end of the line. Yes, they were originally marketed towards business people needing to make work-related calls, but that's such a small portion of what they're used for any more.

So, while Vox may die and while MySpace, LiveJournal, etc. may all lose popularity, the underlying need will continue. So long as there is someone or something to fulfill that need in a way that's relevant to the consumers of that time period, there will be successful providers of those outlets.

So, yeah, FaceBook may be a passing fad, but the larger trend is unlikely to fade while humans have the time, capability and inclination to share. Until such point as the fundamental nature of humans change (i.e., we evolve to be non-social beings or simply die off), there will be a place for some equivalent to "social media".

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