Today it is hard to imagine going through a day without checking what your friends have been up to on Facebook or the latest news on Twitter and LinkedIn. It’s become second nature to automatically share stories that have grabbed our attention with friends and followers. Whilst employers insist on social media training to be necessary in the workplace, smartphones now come with pre-installed social media apps that are impossible to remove.
Social media have become an everyday feature of our lives, but as it develops and diversifies it has also become a source of tremendous digital noise. Exposed to the scores of images, videos, pixels and texts, we become desensitised and exhausted, passively scrolling through the pages to find something of value. Interestingly, as nature abhors a vacuum, new websites and social networks have been slowly surfacing, promising to counter the overwhelming experience of using giant networks like Facebook or Twitter. But are they really that different?
These days it is not enough to simply have a website; everything we create must be social and therefore a host of new social networks have emerged. They claim to cut down on digital noise and offer a streamlined feed, filled only with relevant content. Together they are forging a new trend we could call ‘calm technology’ – a pleasant name that evokes a peaceful harbour amongst a stormy ocean.
There is, of course, Pinterest, a site favoured by wedding-planners and designers and mainly female. Users can create boards with images they upload themselves, pin from other boards or post from external websites. Chime.in is another visual content-sharing site, which its creators would like us see as a social network, but in structure resembling more a blog than what we ordinarily understand as a network. It organises posts around interests rather than people, allowing the users to dive into topics of their choice while reducing distractions. We also have Lyst and Discoveredd, two sites about fashion that offer a more focused stream of content and allow communities to curate most relevant products to them. Browsing becomes less chaotic as the sites are reliably about fashion – and nothing else.
But is a handful of retail-related or blog-inspired pages enough to grant talking about a new emerging trend? Do we really need yet another social network? The critics of Chime.in point out that despite the site’s ambition to flesh out really meaty content from all over the web, the site gets populated with low quality posts that have nothing to do with the tags attached to them. It is vulnerable to abuse from self-promoters and to chaos from the lack of management. True, it is still in beta version, but since its launch in October 2011, it still hasn’t captured our creative imagination and has failed to put an innovative stamp on the social landscape.
This is not to say we wouldn’t benefit from a well-designed and engaging calm technology, a social network that would enable us to really tailor the content based on our interests and passions and cut out the rest. It seems like this trend is necessary and indeed inevitable if we are to maintain our sanity in this relentless stream of information we wade through every day. What is the future of the Internet going to look like? We would like to see it in the form of relevant content delivered to our tablets and computers, in-depth stories that help develop our personalities and stimulate our curiosity, while maintaining our sensitivity to the world near and far. How it will really develop only the future will tell, but here at BUNKER48 we will definitely keep an eye on any new and exciting developments.