Sunday, June 28, 2009

To Measure Your Life, Click Here

We love to know where we stand, how we compare to our peers and non-peers, and what our social status really is. We desire to relatively and objectively measure and signal to others our social influence, finances, intelligence, reputation, etc.

This fundamental human need has traditionally been displayed through the signaling-significance of material possessions such as homes, cars, boats, etc. In the past, warriors have used their size, speed, and number of kills in battle to show military might. During the Middle-Ages, land ownership usually signified real societal standing. For the past century, intellectuals have grown their reputation by publishing books and papers.

For my generation, childhood objective-evaluation usually came in the form of points scored - arcade and video games ingrained this additional layer to the innate need for life-scoring. Corporations and marketing firms realize this particular desire for objective clarity and scoring - this is why Credit Cards and Banks offer accounts based on acquiring various forms of points and rewards.

The Internet has been able to fundamentally leverage this innate human need to supply new forms of life-scoring:
  • Social Influence. The number of friends on Facebook, contacts on LinkedIn, or followers on Twitter has given us new ways to score and display our social reach.
  • Personal Success. Through the emergence of personal blogs we are able to share our romantic, intellectual, and even cuisine-related conquests. Flickr allows us to present visual evidence of our experiential success. Foursquare gives us virtual points and badges for going out and having fun.
  • Financial Prowess. Websites like Covestor allow others to view and mimic our investment moves and broader strategies.
  • Reputation. Pinnacle Digest is an investment forum that gives users the power to grade the comments of other users. This type of feedback has been prominent for years on techie/programming websites. Even Facebook has begun to implement a similar system.

Life-measuring and signaling is just one of many ways in which the Internet has utilized, reshaped, and augmented the fundamental ways we communicate and signal to each other. I suspect that any new website or digital tool that leverages this social need in some way will potentially reach a deeper connection with users and trigger a faster adoption rate.


Post a Comment