How social media is designed to help you build relationships with acquaintances, and why Snapchat (yes, that Snapchat) is the most effective social media platform
It was late enough that I’d stopped thinking for the night, so I proudly proclaimed to my nearby friends that I was getting a Snapchat account. It had always struck me as a bit vapid and narcissistic – you’re swapping carefully-chosen selfies with others to try and win favor – but I figured I’d give it a go.
But I quickly learned that Snapchat, like any other social media platform, gives rise to a number of use cases that the creators probably never intended. (For instance, Twitter probably never foresaw that it would contribute to the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.) What I saw was this: Snapchat and other social media platforms are surprisingly effective ways to grow and maintain your network of weak ties (acquaintances) by reducing the costs of communication and increasing the number of “hooks,” or chances to strike up conversation, you have. All social media can do this, but Snapchat, by its very nature, is the king of this.
Say you want to write about how awesome your pet toaster is and publish it for everyone to see. Say you want to make an app where users can interact with their own virtual pet toasters. Say you want to start selling pet toasters online once you’ve convinced everyone how awesome they are.
In this case, I’d probably be a bit concerned about your sanity. But, more importantly, you’d want to learn some web development – that is, the art of creating web pages like the one you’re viewing right now.
Back in my day (OK, before my day), the profession of web developer was a low one. It ranked below puppy hater but above Yankees fan on the scale of professional honor. Because of all the tags and transparency spacer images we used, we were seen as crude hackers with no sense of aesthetics.
Well, we may still be lacking in aesthetic sense, but as the Web has developed so has the profession of web developer. These days there are countless tools we can use to make well-written, standards-conforming, and beautiful (OK, maybe not that last one) web pages. Most of the great websites you use today (shameless plug: including this one) are built using these tools.
It’s 1999. Internet Explorer 5 is hot stuff, the tech bubble is growing. And Mariano Rivera is World Series MVP. And young (gasp.)
A web developer sits at his computer, drinking coffee and writing some code. He wants to make a browser-based game. The only way he can do this is to use Adobe’s Flash platform to make an interactive movie and embed that in his website.
He wants to put a video on his site too. YouTube sounds like the name of a cheesy subway line, nothing more. Our developer has to make a Flash movie for that, too.
If you’ve bought an electronic device in the last year, you’ll notice that Microsoft is hawking its search engine Bing more than I hawk my products. (On a totally unrelated note, download Cabra, my free and open-source flashcard program.)
That’s all well and good, since you’re allowed to advertise, but Microsoft really goes to the extreme:
Microsoft signed a deal with Blackberry so that Bing would be the only search engine available on Blackberrys.
My sister bought a new computer and was offered a free song download if she searched with Bing.
I’m not sure why home pages were even invented in the first place. I mean, sure, you need a page to open when you boot up your browser, but they just make things, well, awkward. Plus they’re not very useful: most of them just serve as a landing page; you don’t really use them except to read news about how kids can’t bring bagged lunch to school (*cough* Yahoo *cough*.) And when you do that kind of stuff, you just get distracted from what you were originally meaning to do all along.
I want to know why that is and how I can help fix it.