A social paradox.

This is the first post in which I will be looking at the ideas of motivation and self-determination in social media, less of the "what" and more of the "why". What affects our behaviour and how can we resolve our internal motivation with external influence.

Fork in the pathSocial appears to be heading along two discordant paths: one where identity and the individual are less important as discovery takes deeper root, against a need to be identifiable for systems such as authorship and influence.

What is obvious is that we come to social (and the internet as a whole) from very different places and for different needs; what's good for the goose is not always good for the gander.

Social platforms must accommodate both paths so that creators and consumers, storytellers and audience can meet in the middle - find a common ground on which to build their relationships.

But, herein, lies a problem: how to weave both paths so that all can conduct their journeys in their own way?

Search and discovery

Search and discovery are two distinct sides of the same coin; traditional search supplies an expected answer to a specific question, nothing more - you get what you pay for.

Discovery, however, leaves things open to chance, leaves us to stumble across gems beside the path that we might not have otherwise found; those serendipitous moments of realisation and recognition.

Despite what some quarters would have us believe, search is not dead and search engines are not facing extinction but search on its own is not profitable, search is not truly able to surface patterns or interests. Search needs identity to move to the next level.

All paths lead to semantics

Search engines are trying to coerce users, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs in the hope they will entice us to the same endpoint even if our paths vary. Knowledge Graph data, related authors, social results, they are all designed to catch the eye and draw us away from basic blue link searches.

Linking search to social networks introduces identity but doing it in such a way that we log in for one and stay so for the other - one account for all.

Without realising it we are feeding search engines with a feast of our interests, our behaviour and highlighting patterns which, perhaps, we were not consciously aware.

Interests, context, semantics, discovery, impulse: these are profitable and we are exposed to temptation.

The social paradox is, therefore, not that we walk different social paths but that all paths lead us to the same end despite the direction of our journey.

Image by hockadilly

Colin Walker Colin Walker colin@colinwalker.blog