When I got to the path of social network development I faced an interesting contradiction.
On the one hand I want to create some safe and user controllable experience, on the other hand I understand that the value of social networks is in fun and interaction.
So the question is: how to develop or invent something new that would distinguish ID Karma from other social networks?
For a couple of years I was fully immersed in studying web 3.0 technologies and figuring out how to apply decentralized and cryptographic approaches for people's sake.
For a while I was confused by the task that seemed completely new or forgotten — to add something spicy to the product.
Although, I realized that I came to one of the most familiar places.
The picture is more like the "back of the napkin" considerations — rather some deep design and analysis
What underline human mechanics move social networks
We are quite complicated and rich systems, and one of the hardest tasks for us is understanding of ourselves in general. How we are organized, created, acting, which underlying mechanisms make us behave the way we do. This is the indefinite topic, that thousands of pages of books, researches, hypotheses, and delusions, are written about.
This article doesn’t pretend to cover this topic even partly, however I'll try to highlight the most important mechanics that we can play from to create a decent social network.
When we combine these properties in the context of the social network concept, it’s much easier to imagine features that can be appealing for potential users.
But I won’t just list these properties, I’ll try to link them together.
The picture is a back of the napkin considerations, but you can easily get the general idea from it.
Craving for new experience
This is one of the basic things that makes us who we are. This is the source of our curiosity. The source of our intelligence. Something that forces us to learn and to get pleasure from being surprised, and learning something new and interesting.
Even the most ignorant people are experience-craving machines. The difference only in target or direction our experience hunger is directed to. For our brains there is no difference: it is a new drug, mathematical tasks, or funny video from TikTok.
This is a fundamental human’s property that must be satisfied by a social network. We don’t have options except providing new experience from the content generated by other users.
The next property is debatable, but it is bidirectionally linked to craving of new experience (ONLY MY OPINION — I don’t have some scientific research at hand or some reference to prove it).
Short attention and will span
Humans are easily distracted and can’t hold the attention or willpower for long. According to some hypotheses, willpower is one of the youngest features alongside capability for long term planning.
So, the easiest conclusion: long forms will hardly work in social networks at the starting point of their development. Complicated interfaces and interactions are decisive “no”.
The next peculiarity will also follow the craving of new experiences…
Craving new experiences in combination with some survival instincts make us seek ownership of different physical and virtual things (I’m skipping on some consequent logical derivations in order to shorten the article).
I should note that ownership addiction is one of the core motivational factors that makes lots of people play computer games or build rich social network profiles.
If “new experience” is a basis for social networks, “ownership addiction” is a source of energy that makes them work.
The next property I’d like to consider is the result of hacks that nature uses to make us intelligent. One of the cognitive errors. The consequence of low performance of our attention.
Currency bound logic
To simplify different evaluations we are doomed to unconsciously weigh and score different choices, things, and opportunities. It’s required to not keep in our consciousness (and incapacious attention) the exact picture of all underlying benefits and capabilities, when we need to compare two or more things. One of the reflections of this hack is our constant try to find some universal measurement of value — currencies.
When we invent some currency — the measurement of value for us — it’s enough for us to start valuing it as everything that stands behind it all together (spent time, pleasure, failures, success etc.)
Thus, if we need people’s engagement, the social network needs some virtual currencies or scores that allow them to reward people for engagement.
The next human property will sound for someone more like a sin, but in general are consequences of ownership addiction and currency bound logic.
It would be better to call it “self-esteem”, but the chapter won’t look so appealing. Comparing ourselves with one another using different virtual and mental scores, we satisfy our instinct to survive by setting some benchmark. And it’s good, it forces us to make ourselves better.
Social networks should allow us to compare ourselves with others. To inspire us to make ourselves better. To satisfy our desire to be positively evaluated by others by showing them our success.
We looked at humans’ properties, that are used by all social networks and are their core. But to make something new, we need to add something new, that in the same time will be linked to mentioned properties. Linked the way they can interact with existing properties, producing new experience in some natural way.
Scarcity awareness is one of the basic components of our survival skills. This is exactly the property that really engages us and makes us think, move, and focus. As soon as something is limited and valuable we start behaving like cats anticipating being fed when the owner gets to the kitchen.
But scarcity is hard to use properly — especially in social networks. Usually it’s used in some indirect way through “currency bound logic”, “ownership addiction” and “short attention span” — we can’t watch all content that is proposed, so people and networks try to “extract” the best content possible.
But what if we make some social network “resources” scarce in some way. Which way will people apply their best skill — optimize resource utilization to gain more score?
The next property is the most beautiful of humans’ capabilities.
Actually storytelling is more of a bug rather than a feature. We have limited attention and memory capabilities. Plus the biggest part of our brain hardware is specialized to recognize human traits and behavior traces. When these conditions meet one another, the brain produces a funny fluke — storytelling.
We tend to humanize even inanimate objects, we tend to see logical consequences (or stories) in any set of events, and we tend to link everything to something that “makes sense” for us. To see the system — to archive things in some way. Even this article, by its structure and logic, is dictated by this cognitive error, that as a human I can’t avoid. The only problem is that it's not fully wrapped as a some classical story — that makes it harder to perceive.
Stop! Social network that helps to compile something into the story? Why not…
I’d not suggest relying on my list of human traits that make social networks work as a final truth.
It’s my humble opinion. It's the result of quite superficial analysis and recollections of knowledge, that I haven’t revised or updated for some time.
Thus, I would be happy if you correct me, add something, or argue with me, if the topic is interesting for you.