From complaints about Facebook’s changes to criticisms of Google+, the social world is buzzing about how the digital population is tired of social media. There’s no doubt that things need to change; as Brian Solis put it, perhaps this “fatigue” stems from boredom with the status quo that has become a stream of mostly topical interactions.
There are people out there who claim that social media is dead, noting this boredom users feel will kill it off. I have to say, I wholly disagree. Social media has a distinct purpose, and while we could benefit from the ideas of Solis and others, it’s not going anywhere.
Understanding the psychology behind why we all engage with and through social media is the only way we’ll push through these doldrums and growing pains. In short:
- It’s validating
- It’s inclusive
- It’s instant
- It’s interactive
- It’s become innate
As someone who (for a brief moment) studied psychology in undergrad, I know that validation is an important component to social interactions. I’d go so far as to say that social media directly fulfills this need, and that’s one of the fundamental reasons why people keep flocking to it.
Why do people feel the need to post about a bad day? Because usually, at least one person responds with a sympathetic gesture. We’re a society of people who demand instant gratification, and social media is a direct invitation for instant validation, too.
On the other hand, we also use social media when we have something witty, poignant, or important to say. We wait for the “Likes”, the comments, the retweets. The “social” in social media makes us feel like we have a place to sit in the cafeteria at lunch time. It’s acceptance. It’s validating.
However, countless posts about bad days and frustrating occurrences don’t bring a whole lot of value to the digital environment. Social media’s unique sense of validation serves relevant posts just the same. Looking for breaking news? The latest industry trends? I guarantee you’ll find it through social media.Want to know what your friends are doing? Where they’re grabbing a drink after work? Take a look at your stream.
Instant information, instant exchanges, instant validation.
There’s something especially important about the psychology of social media that applies to the digitally engaged population: its usage, even amidst “fatigue” - is seemingly innate.
As an East Coaster, I’ll reference both the Virginia earthquake in August, and Hurricane Irene as examples. Within minutes of the rippling rumbles, my social media stream exploded into a frenzy. How did I find out what that unnatural shaking was beneath my feet? CNN retweets, and friends jumping to mobile devices to share their tales.
With Hurricane Irene, it was more of the same. I didn’t even have to look at the radar to know the exact coordinates of the storm’s eye. It was as if people posted these things to their networks without even thinking about it. It just seemed like the thing to do.
And how about that emergency jet landing in the Hudson a few years back? The first visuals surfaced on Twitter. Twitter! In a very possible life-threatening situation, someone’s instinct was to snap a photograph and go social via mobile. If that’s not indicative of the hold social media has in our psyche, I don’t know what is.
So, why are we bored?
The sheer rate at which social networks have popped up since the birth of social media has been, to put it simply, like wildfire. “If you build it, they will come,” - and we have. Now, the social sprawl is slowing down because we’re trying to figure out how best to “rent” out the space we’re currently occupying.
It's our own faults for having "shiny ball" syndrome.
The landscape is changing, there’s no doubt about that, but think of it this way: now, the landscapers are trying to see how and where to spruce things up. The land itself isn’t being destroyed. Ergo, social media transitioning, and is here to stay.
Let’s put this whole “social media fatigue” issue to bed.