Has concern with popularity peaked?

After reading that some teens are dropping off of Instagram and other social networks and are using Apple’s AirDrop I asked my thirteen year old granddaughter about this. She’s done the same: she’s dumped Instagram and all social networking sites where she was extremely popular and is now just using AirDrop with her closest friends.

Tapping concern with popularity is a piece of almost all social software: Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, WordPress and all of the rest of the connected content management systems have lots of social tools that aren’t necessarily essential for there use, but seem to exhibit an assumption on the part of the designers that we’ll want to use them to increase our popularity.

I first started chewing on this in 2007 when I commented on the effect Flickr Explore was having on photographers that I followed there.

My biggest concern with Explore is that many Flickr users change the way they take and then process pictures on their computers in order to become more popular.

The New Yorker has a fascinating profile by Andrew Marantz on Emerson Spartz who is an expert on how to make web sites and memes go viral: The Virologist.

The way we view the world, the ultimate barometer of quality is: if it gets shared, it’s quality. If someone wants to toil in obscurity, if that makes them happy, that’s fine. Not everybody has to change the world.

I’ve never been able to fully explain why I think concern with popularity on the internet is a problem but reading this piece gave me a bit more to chew on. I still can’t explain it fully but I’m closing in on it.

I’m pretty sure that concern with popularity is part of human nature, but I’m also seeing the effect of 24/7 connectedness enabling that concern to the point where it gets in the way of creative work, and for some, life in general.

Has (over) concern with popularity peaked? Probably not, but here’s hoping it will soon.


  1. Here’s another data point: my friend’s high school and middle school age kid’s app of choice is SnapChat, versus say Instagram or Facebook.

    I think there’s a danger in reading too much into this.

    Sure, SnapChat is designed for eluding parents (what, with no history) and appears to make a statement about kid’s shunning the notion of having your life be archived. It also supports your observation that kids are less impressed with popularity.

    But, after watching the kids use the app, I think it just works for them. They’re highly efficient at using it. I think they’re making less of a social / political statement, and more of a “hey, this is cool, and it gets the job done” statement.

    1. Thanks for the comment benji and I take your point: not all social software is built alike and the subtle and not so subtle differences between, say, Instagram and SnapChat are meaningful given my thesis: that over concern with social popularity may be peaking or may have peaked.

      This is all very interesting stuff to watch and if you note anything else do let me know. I’m interested in it as a user, investor, and commentator.

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