During the holidays, I sat down with a teenager to find out why his peers are running way from Facebook and embracing sites such as Snapchat. His response was simple: teens don’t want to broadcast their conversations and photos to everyone––especially not to their parents. They want to talk and share only with the people they want, without leaving a digital “paper” trail.
The reality is that most social media sites have become “public squares”, places where everyone is “friends” of everyone in one way or another, a place where everything we say goes on record. This means that every time we post, we are broadcasting to the “masses” and going on record.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. We are social creatures by nature; we like to share with others and look to our community for support. We want status, which is a basic human need. We have to claim our place in our tribe.
But there is also a need for intimacy, a feeling of sharing exclusively with the people who are more likely to understand us. The ones who are not going judge us. We also don’t want to be on record all the time. We are humans, and our emotions often dominate our logic. This means that we are going to make mistakes and say stupid things that we are likely to regret.
The more we open our networks, the more people we reach, but also the less intimate and relevant our message becomes. As we cruise toward 2014, our online and offline worlds continue to converge. Just as our “real life” relationships progress toward greater intimacy over time, the progression of our social media networks will naturally evolve into more niche groups that are more close and personal.