Sharing – one of life’s greatest, yet simplest pleasures has never been easier. But it’s also never been less personal.
Social media networks dominate our lives to such an extent that it’s now not inappropriate (in some circles) to live tweet medical procedures to a near infinite audience or announce the death of a loved one on Facebook.
Businesses are also able to share content with consumers more easily than ever.
Subscription-based digital entertainment platforms such as Apple Music (which launched globally in 2015), and Netflix (which expanded to cover 130 markets globally in the first few weeks of 2016) have cemented the paradigm shift from physically thumbing through record or CD racks to the commoditisation of entertainment content for a fixed monthly fee.
But the emotional intimacy generated through the sharing of personally curated content has been heavily diluted by technology.
Mixtapes, once a key mating ritual of lovestruck teenagers (and popularly immortalised in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity), simply don’t have the same emotional oomph when the same mix is uploaded into the public domain and corporatised by a SoundCloud logo.
Thoughtfully clipping an article from a magazine or newspaper and placing it on a colleague’s desk is a behaviour rendered impossible if sharing a digital link; further exacerbated when paywalls make the content impossible to access. And if you’re going to send a link, why just send it to one colleague when you can send it to the whole office? Surely someone will be interested?!
Interpersonal connections are undoubtedly suffering in the digital age. Broadcasting used to be the preserve of a select few organisations. Now everyone’s at it. Has the power gone to our heads? Are our brittle egos so hungry for continual praise and reassurance that we have to bellow our message to as many people as possible, simply to garner a few “likes”?
Kadence’s extensive media research over the past few years has uncovered conflicting insights – the obvious gratification of cheap, quality content; and yet a melancholic disquiet that existing digital sharing tools have been tailored to merely broadcast information – a state of affairs that has further exacerbated people’s proclivity for pronouncement.
So, while consumers are making convenient (and often inherently poor) sharing decisions, they are limited by a lack of effective infrastructure to support and enhance more intimate and personal sharing of digital content.
It is, of course, fair to recognise that some of the most exciting new brands (Uber, Airbnb) have harnessed peer-to-peer connections to construct the “sharing economy” at a global level – but these interactions still involve very limited interpersonal contact.
On the other hand, the likes of Nutella, Coke and Marmite (with their opportunity to print the name of a loved one on their product using their own iconic logos) recognise that enabling emotive human connections is just as powerful as expansive brand campaigns.
Empirical evidence suggests that far from making us wiser, our increasingly homogenised environments drive humankind towards the “lowest common denominator”; so I believe 2017 will see a reaction to this, with consumers and brands celebrating the value in the esoteric, the individual and the intimate, and accordingly, reappraising our sharing behaviours to bring human connection to the fore once again.