This week, I’ve been mostly immersed in speaking with experts and just putting scrappy ideas that are in my head, out in a sketch form. I’ve read several articles just on the implications of the ‘Like’ button alone. I’m getting a full picture on why people, especially teenagers, are vulnerable to a distorted self-image because of social media. If we just plainly look at the Like button on Instagram—it’s in the shape of a heart.
In a face to face interaction, we have phatic, non-verbal cues to help aid communication and are crucial to conveying what we really want to. Things like hugs, kisses, a pat on the back—those things are important and crucial in helping us determine acceptance and a sense of belonging. Now with that all being scraped away, we’re only left with emojis and buttons as our only indicative cues to help us understand our place and how we belong in our community. Studies also mention how a lack of Likes on people’s posts can also lead to one feeling ostracized or disconnected. On top of that, these are all controlled by algorithms, by people and organizations who want to profit off our engagements with one another.
I can’t even.
A couple of heavy questions that’s been steeping in my mind after:
- What does a meaningful online interaction actually look like? (in what context, with who, etc).
- How or what makes people feel connected online?
- How can we create systems that make everyone feel like they are included? Helps them gather the information they need for meaningful interaction?
This will be my next phase as I talk to users of social media or communication/community platforms.
I also managed to show my early ideas to the experts or thinkers in the field, and got valuable feedback.
People told me that this was a good approach, but that giving users control will be most important. So instead of disallowing them to proceed with the knee-jerk reactionary comment, the app or thing will just alert them that their heartbeat has gone up, and question if they’re still sure of posting the comment. This is also a growing field, called Adaptive Interfaces.
The hypothesis I have behind this next idea is that since we cannot control how positive or negative other people’s interactions are, we should reflect on our own—making ourselves more aware of things we are exposing ourselves to and how that makes us feel. However, many people had a hard time understanding the intent. One person also suggested showing a consumption side—not just the reactions. In her own words, “what you eat is what you grow.” I agree.
The hypothesis behind this idea is that we spend too much time mindlessly interacting, without understanding how our frivolous interaction can be perceived by someone else. If we can force people to leave a comment, then maybe we can have more meaningful engagements on social media. But one person says that, sometimes she likes thing just because she wants to send our good vibes. By forcing her to leave comments, she might reduce her interactions and therefore, reduce the good vibes she wants to give out.
These are all great feedback, but all these ideas actually point at different intentions. My focus for the next coming week and week after, is to talk to as many non-experts, and get their perspective on what they want social media to be place for; how it has worked/not worked for them, so I can scope this project (this can of worms!!!) even more.