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Insights: Interviews on The Future of Social Media as Curated by Anil Dash and Gina Trapani


I’ve long admired the work of Anil Dash and Gina Tripani over the years. In many ways, each has shaped my perspectives in new media and its impact on our professional and personal lives over the years. It came as no surprise that Dash and Tripani collaborated on yet another project. This time, they created ThinkUp, a social media service that offers daily insights about you and your friends on Twitter and Facebook.

To celebrate the launch of their latest venture, they assembled some of their most thoughtful colleagues to share their thoughts on the future of social media.  The result is a thought-provoking ebook featuring the likes of Fred Wilson, Steve Case, danah boyd, Joi Ito, Tim O’Reilly, Kathryn Finney, Jason Fried, John Gruber, Chelsea Peretti and a whole bunch of other people I geek out about.

I’ve provided an excerpt of my contribution below. The entire ebook follows via SlideShare.

When did you first realize that social networks were going to change how you live or work?

As a kid, I would spend time exploring bulletin boards. I thought it was cool. But as a teenager, I assumed it was something everyone did. In the mid-90’s however, and as a young man, I realized the importance of connectedness and engagement. Forums, boards, and early blogs transformed my perspective of how information travels and how people are influenced. I grew up both analog and digital and as a result, I saw the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities with both traditional and social media. Working in media and marketing at the time, I believed that understanding social media would set me on a path where I could make an impact in a new realm. In February of 1999, I started FutureWorks, a company dedicated to digital influence and new media. I ran that company until I joined Altimeter Group in March 2011.

What moment or moments stand out to you as the most meaningful ones you’ve had online?

For the first several years of venturing into social, I was a consumer and a student. I studied relentlessly to learn how to add value and build community for a variety of industries I worked in at the time. I link this to also being an introvert in real life. Somewhere in the early 2000’s, I decided to share everything I had learned and was learning. My goal was to do so using only new media. I remember feeling a sense of validation, that others also found value in my perspective, and also a sense of acceptance, that sharing with friends and strangers allowed me to connect without the anxiety of stepping out of my comfort zone. Perhaps online interaction helps someone earn confidence to become a bit more outgoing or approachable in everyday life.

Each time I publish, it’s my intention to deliver value and also invite discourse. With every interaction, I learned and grew. This drives me to this day.

If you could know one thing about the people you’re connected to online, what would it be?

This might sound strange, but I would find it incredibly useful if every network provided a personalized portion in each of your connections’ profiles that shows you how they know you or why they follow you. As networks expand and contract, it becomes almost impossible to remember the source of the link you share with someone. I’m often embarrassed and to some extent troubled when someone from my social network approaches me in the real world with a sense of expectation that I will readily remember who they are and how we know one another… “Hey, it’s me!”

What do you wish the people you follow did more or less of online?

In the barrage of updates that showcase food, activities, humble brags, famous quotes, selfies, politics, et al., I would love to know what they do and don’t get out of social media. I think the value system of it all is evolving in a direction that needs realignment. I don’t believe in information overload. Networking isn’t a reciprocal exchange. Active filtering is our responsibility to maintain value in our social streams. Additionally, it’s our responsibility to invest value in the streams of those who are connected to us.
But back to the value system for a moment. I wish people shared less of what they think is going to spark “engagement” and focused more on what will spark meaningful dialogue and interaction. There’s a difference and I think it has everything to do with why we think we need to constantly monitor our social steams and why and when we should.

What’s the big thing that’s missing from today’s social networks?

I wonder sometimes about the dimensionality of the social web. What I see online reveals one or more sides of someone but has yet to portray the true character and holistic nature of someone. I guess to expect such is unrealistic. When an online relationship is consummated in real life, there’s usually a surprising flood of personality, ethos and perspective that unfold in any given situation. However, I do think that what we share also has an impact on the dimensionality of what others see and the impressions they form as a result. I believe we should be a bit more intentional about what we share to add color, depth, and perspective to our digital persona and how it aligns with our real world identity.

After all, we’ve no choice but to live this so called digital life as best we can for ourselves and those who follow us…literally.

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Photo Credit: Heart, Shutterstock

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