I am bored.
Not bored generally with life – remember, those who are bored are so because they are boring. Rather, I am bored with my “social media life.”
The spices and zests of digital media – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat (yes, I do use Snapchat; no, it’s not for naked photos like the papers say) – taste more and more bland to me. I am now uninspired by the constant instantaneity of information that floods my life and suffocates my brain.
I am sick from an overdose of what is known as “the stream.”
Defining the stream, Erick Schonfeld said this in 2009: “The stream is winding its way throughout the web and organizing it by newness.” Back then, we all welcomed the stream as it crowned and sorted content solely based on “newness,” giving us a way to navigate the infinite that is the Internet. It ultimately gave us the human security of feeling grounded and ordered, something we had yet to establish in the exponentially growing online world.
But now I find the stream to be a road with no exits or end destination, where what began as a road trip in a new world becomes monotonous scenery. I need a rest stop.
Things that are fighting against the stream: Alexis C. Madrigal writes for The Atlantic, discussing examples including Snapchat, which works on the mantra of being untraceable. As Madrigal puts it, “A passing fog, not the stream.” I’m not sure Snapchat is a significant force, but I agree its ideal contests the stream.
Other examples include paywalls, the popular Reddit forum – TIL (today I learned) and the online “news” providers that produce content made solely for viral purposes, such as UpWorthy and ViralNova.
But whilst all are defenses against the stream, not one is large enough to completely avert its course and remedy this overdose.
Robin Sloan presents the idea of “Stock and Flow” in his blog, Snarkmarket. Here the stream remains as the flow, but also durable content gains greater consideration as the stock. In other words, a compromise emerges where the stream remains and other content is added on. Facebook’s recent update to its newsfeed follows this model, as older posts that “do well” now remain more prominent in our newsfeeds instead of being lost downstream. But this is by no means enough.
More importantly, how do we as marketers and advertisers fight against the stream?
We need quality, longstanding approaches. Here are some examples:
Acting like publishers. There needs to be a continuation toward better-written, more humanly relevant content. We need to always offer our audiences high-quality and relatable content that attracts via education rather than hard sell.
A refocus on long-term brand building. As argued by Les Binet and Peter Field in their paper ‘The Long and Short of It, “advertisers and marketers are fixated with short-term, response-focused campaigns, where the volume growth comes quickly. Yet this won’t have the same level of success as a brand-building campaign, which brings more sustainable profit via pricing effects.
The list continues, but the refocus on quality and long term is the key. After all, who wants a Big Mac when one can have a dry-aged beef patty, with smoked bacon and double Monterey Jack cheese on a glazed brioche bun?
I mean, hats off to digital media for having such an effect on our lives – it proves the power it holds in how much it molds our world and culture.
But now, just get me out of this goddam stream.
Kathryn Butterfield – Strategist at gyro London
Stealing from Einstein, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” I’m interested in the world and the people within it – cultural trends, why people are the way they are and how this all affects brands, businesses and everyday lives. Also a lover of gin, my Kindle, adventures and anything with a beat that isn’t thrash metal.