06.07.12

Discernment

Our current view of social media mimics our current state of attention-deficient, buffet-style appetites for digesting it — a constant cacophony of rapid short-burst content, anytime and anywhere.

Jen recently lamented that her photos on Instagram didn’t garner the same sort of attention that some others do. To be honest, she compares her online social activity to mine, which is admittedly different. Obviously, I’ve had a longer time to invest in an online identity given that my entire line of work has primarily revolved around the internet.

Back to the lamenting (I jest) — I, too, noticed this among some of the people I follow. Their photos weren’t necessarily attracting the same level of attention like others’ streams, and yes, that in a way, it’s all who you are, who you know, and what they like.

But that’s an easy way out. In looking at the matter and thinking about it for some time now, there’s a reason places like Flickr and other more attention-demanding sites have slowly lost their occupants. See the first paragraph.

Yet another excuse. So I thought about my own behavior. In the Instagram example (though, you can certainly apply this to Dribbble or any content digestion that is relegated to short/small bits of content), I’ve scanned my list quickly and at first will “like” things based on gut reaction and with the same sort of behavior that leads one to judge books by their cover. This is scanability at work. Some photos on Instagram are just parsed easier and are more attractive for their simplicity, composition, and apparent minimalism. Easy. To. Digest. Instagram’s purpose is just that — to make your smartphone photos look great. Its limits and features force a simple approach by design, resulting in photos that just look good.

On my second review (you know, after a few bites of dinner or when the next commercial comes on, and I check Instagram again), I see the same photos again, but this time I give them a closer inspection, and I find qualities I missed the first time around. And I like them this time. With considered intent.

On that first pass, what I’m doing is a snap judgment rating of things that caught my eye. On subsequent passes, I’m more discerning, more critical, more interested in what else is presented to me. I can judge better, absorb better, and like better. This is how it should be. Or used to be. This is what’s seemingly lacking now‚ a sense of real consideration and criticism rather than an effortless swathe of likes.

Discernment.

That first look provides an easy set of things for me to like, willy-nilly, sometimes without even really pausing to look at the photo. I can just swipe, like, swipe, like and keep moving until presented with the “Load more” button. And it doesn’t cost anything, but as Dustin Senos has stated, maybe it should.

Does your “like” have real gravitas?

In comparison, communities such as Flickr ask its inhabitants to pursue photography with a more deliberate and thoughtful touch. This doesn’t have to be the case, of course, but the history of the site has drawn various people from all over the world to upload their snaps there‚ in whatever format and from whatever camera they used. With that level of nonrestraint, Flickr is more of an open platform to be used in whatever manner seems befitting its community. People use it as a portfolio, as a community group, to organize group photo shoots, to share snapshots, to engage in hardcore enthusiast and pro-level photography, and much, much more. It asks more of its community, and some of its users have answered with frictionless and simple. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

Call it “slow liking”

This is the core of what I’m considering in my own behavior — not that I disagree with liking things. Rather, I should stop to reflect and appreciate the content that someone has shared with me, ultimately deciding it’s worth my time. After all, I followed them in the first place, and I’ve looked at/read about/experienced their creation.

What I love about something that demands contemplation is that it asks you to give it respect, focus, and yes, that pulled-in-all-directions attention that everybody wants.

It asks you to take a second look, but for more than just a second or two.

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