Arguably, the big social media innovation was not the chatter and the sharing, which had been invented around the origin of people, but the possibility of chattering and sharing on one’s own time. A feed or any of its message elements can be followed, unfollowed, responded to or ignored whenever. It will be there for the recipient or the bystander to use or abuse on their particular schedule.
It may be that certain types are permanently tuned in, but that isn’t a pre-requisite. It may also be that some are tuned in permanently in one place but not another, and in these cases it’s possible to visit or revisit any of these places and not miss the moment. The moment and its value are of critical importance in all this, I think.
When moments are limited, the flexibility is a convenience. And despite the popularity of video or audio streaming – which are broadcast and one-directional in nature – the ability to interact on one’s own time has been facilitated by text. The text may have an image or a musical attachment, but its view or listen on the other end are backed by text to let you know what to expect. And the content is accessed at a time that is convenient.
Before social media there were letters, which served a similar function, and before letters there was the home or local market, say, where one could receive or kick out, stop and chat, or avoid, congregate or abandon. Presumably, one came or went on a particular timeframe and for a certain purpose, based on the need or want of the individual or the group. An organizing aspect of it all, in most important ways, I think, was time and expectation.
You wouldn’t go to the market when nobody else was there, not ordinarily, you wouldn’t knock on someone’s door if you thought another door would serve a better purpose because, you know, “time is money.” I bet they said that back then too. And before money there was still some notion about value, perhaps, so maybe they said “time is value,” or at least thought it before finding words to blurt our loud.
Still and all, time, convenience, and value in modern communication are enhanced by text, which allows for the best and most lasting transport and decomposition. I think this has been a staple of social media since its advent, to the extent that social is an interactive two-way thing.
The new social media vehicle that is purely voice-based and serendipitous, unscheduled, makes one wonder…
One day, our time supply will be limited again, and even if it isn’t our attention will still be.