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Social media getting more spontaneous and less personal

Matt Kapko | March 12, 2014
Deliberate status updates are losing luster as quick, impromptu, short-lived activity on social media gathers momentum. If the first phase of social media was a massive effort to share our online identities, this current wave is all about fleeting encounters.


Social media is a fickle activity. The more we do it, the more our practices, attitudes and aspirations for its use change. While users generally play to the audience they're reaching on these channels, they're also gravitating from one outlet to another to stay fresh and engaged with the growing world around them.

The era of developing our own deeply involved digital profiles mixed with a buffet of social updates canvassed with media is slipping. Detailed status updates are losing luster as quick, impromptu (and even short-lived) activity on social media gathers momentum. Deliberation is giving way to anonymity and more ephemeral activity.

For every Friendster and MySpace of the world, there's a Facebook nipping at its heels ready to take it down. Although Facebook has become what is undeniably the largest and most powerful Internet-based communications medium ever, it's success has given rise to the likes of Twitter, Snapchat, Secret and dozens if not hundreds of others. So much so in the case of WhatsApp, that Facebook was compelled to buy the rapidly growing company for as much as $19 billion.

Spontaneous and Anonymity Top Personal Details
Many of today's hottest social apps serve a more spontaneous function. Snapchat gives its users the capability to share photos in real time and set a time limit for how long those "snaps" appear (no more than 10 seconds) before, the company claimes, they are removed from the recipient's device and Snapchat's servers.

Whisper and the latest Silicon Valley phenomenon Secret let you anonymously share text with a photo or pre-loaded background. These apps are all incredibly simple and designed around the premise that you will share more when you are unassociated with you identities and perhaps even less afraid to share too much.

"Mobile lends itself to much shorter, much more snack-able and fleeting encounters of all types," says Rebecca Lieb, analyst at Altimeter Group. "We've gone from the broadcast model to the PC model, now we're at the mobile model... and it's changing the way content is created and consumed."

Any quick glance at your timeline on Secret will attest that these apps don't live in a vacuum either. The long-form and feature-heavy experience of Facebook shares little in common with the simpler and more intuitive impulsiveness derived from apps like Snapchat. Perched from its headquarters 400 feet from the boardwalk in Venice, Calif., Snapchat reportedly spurned a pair of acquisition offers last fall from Facebook and Google for $3 billion and $4 billion, respectively.

The growing inclination to use more of these spontaneous apps is driven by a trend that goes beyond social media, says Lieb. Living in what could be termed an attention-deficit society, "we definitely tend to be in the Cliff Notes version," she adds. Social activity on Whisper, Secret, Snapchat and others is not just fleeting, but also unpreserved.


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