When everything is social, what happens to serendipity?

8 Dec 2010 by Randall Helms, 1 Comment »

Last weekend the cover story in the Financial Times magazine was “Facebook’s grand plan for the future” by David Gelles, a panoramic look at the company that is by far the biggest player in the social sphere. The whole thing is worth reading, but I just want to pick out one thing that really struck me:

(Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg) uses the word “social” a lot, and it’s not always obvious what he means. He is not simply talking about telling your friends what you had for breakfast with a status update. To Zuckerberg, a more social world is one where nearly everything – from the web to the TV to the restaurants you choose to eat at – is informed by your stated preferences and your friends’ preferences, and equipped with technology that lets you communicate and share content with people you know. What Zuckerberg is talking about is a new way of organising and navigating information.

It’s only a small paragraph, but this really struck me. If your potential experiences are pre-filtered according to the expressed past opinions of yourself and your ‘social graph’, what happens to those thrilling moments when you find yourself enjoying, even loving, a movie (or restaurant or book or travel destination) that you had no idea you would be interested in? Is serendipity defunct in a world defined by social media algorithms?

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One Comment

  1. Kapil says:

    Think it’s all about the right balance. I know it’s an ideology, humans generally do more harm than good when it comes to new technology, but its now a necessary evil. Let’s just hope that in enough cases social will mean improved service and customer experiences while keeping the true surprises alive!

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