If you are on vacation and stop what you are doing to post a picture, video or comment to social media, are you still on vacation?
Of course people have taken pictures on vacation since time immemorial. What I am saying is that the ability to instantly show the moments of our life has altered our motivation to take pictures on vacation or at dinner or at a ball game in the first place. I will admit that I post a lot of things on Facebook and Twitter to support public perception of the life I live. It’s part of my persona. (Check out our Social TV Personas)
For example, this past July 4th I was at a fireworks show and I wanted to share with all of my friends how awesome the display was. Sadly, I spent most of the show trying to time the fireworks with the speed of the camera on my iPhone so I could keep the fireworks in frame. After many tries I realized that the best moments of the fireworks display just looked like huge blooms of light that my phone’s camera could not accurately pick up.
The worst part – I spent at least 10 minutes of a 20 minute show trying to capture a good image to share with my social media friends. Not only did I not really see that portion of the show, but none of the moments I captured of the fireworks display were truly representative of what the fireworks were like for people at the event.
In that moment of wasted energy and effort, I realized I can’t remember a single time in my life before social media that I brought a camera with me to an event so that I could show my friends who were not there what the event was like.
I contend that when we turn our smart phone into a camera or word processor we actually stop living that moment and by default take away from our own experience. I can easily think of several times when someone said something witty in conversation and I mentally disengaged from the conversation to post it to my Facebook profile. The line could have been conversational gold, but I didn’t hear the next thing they said because I was too busy cataloging their previous pearl of wisdom on my digital footprint.
I guess my question is, when we take a break from our actual life to augment our virtual life, are we really living a full life? Social media is not going away, nor am I saying that I think it should. As designers, we consider the motives behind the use of social media. Is it an avenue to make lives easier and more fulfilling or as another way to catalog the way people live?
Based on our research, it’s important to understand the motive and value proposition for certain groups in order to build something that adds to an experience instead of taking away from it.