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Social vs “Frienaissance”

friends icon socialI first heard the term ‘Frienaissance’ in a Friends episode.  Pheobe had asked Joey if he wanted to have a Frienaissance after he asks her to help him drive back from Vegas.

Even though it was just a decade or so ago, the episode was long before the age of social networking and the multiple points of contact that we have today.

Anyways, I bring it up because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how useless “social” networks are and how much we exchange in terms of personal information just so that we can link up with someone we knew back in Grade 4.

Let’s face it:  for most of us, after a few years of use and ‘kicking the tires’, “social” networks just aren’t that social.  Most of us have found that we don’t like to shout or broadcast to a mish-mash of old contacts and most of us don’t live to be the life of the party.  Most of our conversations are still with ‘plain old’ email or – gasp – the telephone or a coffee IN PERSON.

If you’ve got about 6 minutes to spare, check out this timely video that sends a similar message (if not, please quickly scroll down so as to avoid missing any important points I hope to make!).

Social = Digital’s Broadcast Opportunity

I think the central reason why most marketers are so gaga over social media networks is that they represent something that they are familiar with (and we all know how people hate to change).

Since the beginning of time (at least, on a corporate / business / economic scale), marketers have had an affinity for tools that allow them to shout at listeners or watches.  TV, radio, print, direct mail and other traditional formats have proven to be exceptional ways to keep a one-way conversation going.

“I tell you to do something and you do it” has been the standard when it comes to mass marketing.

They never really cared about you until you stopped buying their shit.

With the advent of digital, that relationship changed.  Significantly.

It turns out that consumers – us – have opinions about things.  We developed our own tools that helped us create a dialogue and fight against the monologue that marketers are famous for.  However, this change has been driving marketers crazy!


Once ‘digital’ manifested into ‘social’, it reverted back to the control position that most companies felt they had lost in the early years of digital.  Once again, people are corralled into neat little pockets of preferences, likes and interests all conveniently aggregated en masse so that messages can be shouted to people once again.

As a result of this evolution, the people that have been the biggest and most vocal proponents of social networking tools are almost always those same people that eventually come to a party, drink all your beer, smash a lamp and then run off with your girlfriend.  For some reason, we keep putting up with these people and keep them as part of our conversations (ie. parties), but we know our relationship with them is painful, expensive and messy.

Sales people, innovation nuts and early adopters are all advocates of social media platforms, but as far as I can guess, they really only represent about 20% of the world’s population.  The rest of us are banned from social platforms through our work place, sneak out for a quick Facebook-fix with their mobile like the smokers of old who used to sneak out for a butt, or we’re just bored with the whole idea.

Facebook numbers are plummeting in North America for this very reason, along with the fact that Facebook could care less about your personal interests when they’re trying to monetize your activity.

Don’t believe me?  How about a quote from Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook:

Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard just ask. I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS. People just submitted it. I don’t know why. They trust me. Dumb fucks.

Google Plus has yet to catch on in any tangible way because many of us are just socially tapped out.

The ubiquity of options has diluted the concentration and intensity of the social experience.  It’s been watered down to a point where most of the contact has lost its meaning.

Twitter is the only one that has a decent hope of survival, but that’s only if it becomes a useful tool for everyone.

For example, how come Twitter doesn’t have something like the equivalent of an emergency broadcast network?  If there’s an amber alert or other emergency (eg. a local earthquake), local authorities would have the ability to broadcast through all users and all groups so that tragedies can be averted more quickly.

Other tools that would be useful with social platforms would be better privacy and group controls.  Google Plus is trying to move in that direction, but it will be impossible to let people build one-on-one relationships while there’s some creepy corporate weirdo overlooking every move you make while you chat with your friends.

Enter the Need for the “Frienaissance”

It’s inevitable that people will adapt to the social phenomenon in different ways.

They just won’t have the time over the long-term to harvest their Farmville Farms, let alone their own personal relationships.

Of course, there are those out there who truly believe that Facebook IS the Internet, but they’re all in for a rude shock when they wake up one day and discover that the company has fallen into an abyss of neglect or social abuse.  Or when mainstream media – like the drones they are – continue to pull pages from people’s personal profiles and use it against them in political, economic or job-hiring circles.  The constant threat of real-life social abandonment because of people’s own digital follies will not be tolerated over the long run.

In the interim, pick up the phone.  Have a chat, catch up and enjoy people … on a one-on-one basis.