We’re reaching saturation point with social media. In fact, I think we got past that point a long time ago, meaning that we’re at the “completely sodden and dribbling all over the carpet” stage.
There is too much social media. There are too many possible places for people to share things that nobody cares about with people they don’t know. And it seems that every day some bright-eyed startup CEO decides that what we really need is yet another social network service of some description.
I’ve indulged in a few of these superfluous social networks over the years. GetGlue was a bit of fun, allowing you to “check in” to movies, books, games and even “topics” that you were interested in, leave comments and discuss things with other community members. This was at the height of the “gamification” craze, so there were plenty of achievements to collect, and you could even get some real-life physical stickers sent to you if you collected enough achievements.
Similarly, Foursquare and the now-defunct Gowalla proved fun for a little while. During the period of time when I was unemployed and quite spectacularly depressed, I made extensive use of Gowalla to “tag” various places around Southampton and assist with building up a crowdsourced map of places of interest. I even made some actual real-life friends through it, but since then location check-ins have lost their lustre — what’s the point, really?
Then I tried Path, which promised to be a high-quality mobile-focused social network. But since you can access Facebook, Twitter and Google+ — the biggest social networks in the world — via your mobile phone, why on Earth would you need a mobile-specific one? Sure, Path had a lovely interface and the bizarre ability to track when you woke up and went to sleep, but it was ultimately pointless.
Today, I reviewed an app/social network whose purpose remained completely obtuse to me even as I made use of it — and even as an employee of the company frantically tried to convince me that the service was worthwhile via both Twitter and the service itself. (I’m not going to name it as I really can’t be bothered to be chased further — I gave it a fair shot, I explored it, I found it to be a complete waste of time. Sorry.)
The service in question allows users to, like GetGlue, “Like” things. Any things. Like cake? Then “Like” cake. Like Tori Amos? Then “Like” Tori Amos. Not sure whether you like broccoli and stilton soup? Then add it to your “To-Do” list, then “Like” it if you like it. Great. Sure. Fine. One question: why?
This questionable usefulness was only further obscured by the fact that the app also, for some utterly unfathomable reason, allows its users to “plant” “Likes” at actual physical locations, meaning you can claim to have hidden, say, an iPhone 5 in your local McDonalds, or Jedward in your local sewage works. Fun for about five minutes again, sure — and a means of seeing who lives vaguely near you and likes Jedward — but again… why?
There’s too much noise and not enough signal in social media these days, in short, and this fact is a big part of why I stripped back on all “non-essential” social apps a while back. I keep Facebook, Twitter and G+ around because there are people I regularly speak to on all of those, but outside of those “big three”? There’s really very little reason for a lot of these services and apps to exist, but the amount of money being thrown at them by venture capitalists is terrifying.
Kind of makes me think that I should come up with an “innovative” idea for a mobile social network in order to attract several million dollars’ worth of funding.
Okay… give me a minute.
Eureka! I got it. Everyone likes taking Instagram photos of food, right? Well, I propose a social photography network that is nothing but pictures of food with a selection of retro filters (some of which are available via in-app purchase). You can “check in” to the food you’re eating, discuss it with other people and share photographs of your lunchbox. It’ll be a big hit. I’ll call it “füd”, all in lower case, naturally.
That’ll be two million dollars, please, Mr Venture Capitalist. KTHX.