KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

2014 columns, Technology

Peak sharing and sustainable ‘Likes’

by Connor Tomas O'Brien , February 10, 2014Leave a comment

Sometime around 1970, oil production peaked in the continental United States. This was perhaps a little surprising, as over the preceding few years, production had continued to increase at a relatively steady rate. The peak wasn’t followed by a sudden decline in production, either. Rather, as it gradually become just a little more cumbersome and a little more expensive to extract oil from the remaining reserves, production fell bit by bit, declining steadily but sluggardly.

When we prognosticate, we tend to be averse to bell curves. We want to believe things will either continue along their current trajectory forever, or crash and burn in a sudden dramatic flash. We don’t want to believe that things can slowly ramp up, reach their zenith, and proceed to gradually ramp back down again.

It’s our aversion to the bell curve that explains why there are two discordant narratives about Facebook – now celebrating its tenth birthday! – floating around. The crash and burn narrative is that Facebook is already ‘dead and buried’ with younger users now ‘embarrassed to even be associated with it’.

The other dominant narrative, presented most definitively in Dave Eggers’ The Circle, is that our use of social media services like Facebook is on track to increase endlessly until ‘the circle completes’ and every component of our lives finds itself safely ensconced inside of Zuckerberg’s data centres.

There’s another option, of course, and it’s neither sexy nor terrifying. What if our use of social media tools just slowly ramps down over time without us really noticing what’s happening? What if, looking back on 2014, we find that we actually hit ‘Peak Sharing’?

It’s almost a certainty that we’re using Facebook now more than ever. As of mid-2013, Facebook’s 1.26 billion users clicked ‘Like’ more than 4.5 billion times daily (for a total of over 1.14 trillion ‘Likes’ since launch). These numbers are incredible, but inside the company, they must also be terrifying, because they signify that the peak must be within reach.

Sure, there are still 5.8 billion people not on Facebook, but they’re 5.8 billion of the hardest people to reach: the very young, the very old, the very poor, the disconnected and culturally and geographically isolated. If you’re not already on Facebook, the time and energy required for Facebook to ‘acquire’ you would now probably outstrip your lifetime value as a potential user.

It’s not exactly reasonable to expect existing users to continue endlessly increasing their interaction with Facebook: ‘Liking’ as a process is virtually impossible to further streamline, and in any case, the value of any single ‘Like’ depreciates as the overall quantity of ‘Likes’ increases (does tapping the ‘Like’ button really mean anything if you’re clicking it so often you can’t remember what you ‘Liked’ five minutes ago?).

Facebook is similar to any resource extraction company, seeking out new reserves to tap and contain. In Facebook’s case, those resources are human time and emotional energy, and because these reserves are limited, ‘Peak Sharing’ is an inevitability.

Facebook’s recent introduction of Paper – an iOS app designed to encourage slower and better sharing – seems to reflect Facebook’s acknowledgement that ‘Peak Sharing’ is probably well within reach. In Paper, only a small amount of content appears on screen at a time, encouraging a more leisurely approach to traversing Facebook’s News Feed. Instead of pushing for increasing the quantity of engagement with Facebook, which is now probably no longer even possible, Paper appears focused on improving the quality of sharing… which is certainly far from peaking.

Paper represents an interesting change of tack for the company, perhaps reminiscent of British Petroleum’s rebranding to ‘Beyond Petroleum’ in the wake of fears of a fast approaching global ‘Peak Oil’ point. If it’s a sure thing that we’ll eventually burn out sharing billions of photos and leaving trillions of comments, in other words, perhaps we’ll find ourselves turning to Facebook to assist us as we ramp down our dependency on non-sustainable ‘Likes’.

Connor Tomas O’Brien is a web designer and co-founder of the ebookstore platform Tomely. 

ACO logo




Frances Abbott

David Donaldson

Why #whitehousegate matters

A few days after the release of the budget, in which the Coalition government announced it was spreading the burden by increasing university fees, cutting school funding, and cutting welfare for young people comes a story that confirms what many already suspect to be the nature of opportunity: it’s much easier to come by if you’re born into privilege. Read more »

money

David Donaldson

When does lobbying become corruption?

Whether it’s Clive Palmer buying his way into parliament, the recent, varied ICAC revelations of dodgy fundraising in the NSW Liberal party, or the refusal or inability of successive governments to effectively tackle powerful corporate interests in industries like gambling, mining, media, and junk food, there is a feeling among many Australians that democracy is up for sale. Read more »

cluster munition

David Donaldson

How to make treaties and influence people

In an era when Russia can annex Ukrainian territory, when the Refugee Convention is regularly flouted, and when nobody seems to be able to do anything to stop the carnage in Syria, it can be tempting to ask: what can international law actually achieve? Read more »

My Salinger Year

Carody Culver

Searching for Mr Salinger

Joanna Rakoff’s book is ‘the truth, told as best [she] could’, of her year as an assistant at one of New York’s oldest literary agencies, a job for which many an Arts graduate would sell a kidney. Read more »

editing

Carody Culver

Giving voice to a silent profession

The role editors play in the process of ushering new writing into the world is both vitally important and strangely overlooked. Read more »

354_1

Hannah Kent

Highbrow vs Lowbrow: Hannah Kent defends Highbrow Literature

I understand why many people have a problem with highbrow literature. ‘Intellectual snobbery’ is a common accusation, as though the reason people read and write the stuff is solely to intimidate their dinner guests. ‘Highbrow literature is for wankers,’ I hear them say. Well, ladies and gentlemen, so is Fifty Shades of Grey. Read more »

Mariah Carey

Is she Mariah, the ‘elusive’ chanteuse?

Two weeks ago, Mariah Carey launched her fourteenth studio album, Me. I am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse. Yes, that’s the real name, and it’s hilarious not only because the title is so long and happily shameless but because Mariah has long styled herself as one of the least elusive pop stars in the pop music galaxy. Read more »

Douglass books

Julia Tulloh

High fantasy writers who aren’t George RR Martin, and who are also women

‘Tolkien is the greatest burden the modern fantasy author must labour under and eventually escape from if they are to succeed.’ So wrote Australian high fantasy writer, Sara Douglass, a decade and a half ago. Replace Tolkien with George RR Martin, and one might say the same principle applies today. Read more »

Conchita Wurst

Julia Tulloh

Why Eurovision 2014 was a bit disappointing

No one watches Eurovision to discover surprise new talent, or even to hear good singing. I watch it for the kitschy, pop-tastic visual onslaught which rarely fails to assault viewers. Read more »

Gabrielle

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Beyond tics, limps and prosthetics

Think of a disability – mental or physical – and there’s sure to be a film that features it. What about giving big roles to actors who actually live with the disability they’re depicting? Now that would be authentic. Read more »

Under the Skin

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Size Matters

Bigger isn’t always better, but some films will open themselves up to you and pour themselves out in new ways when you see them on a cinema screen. Read more »

Babadook

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Bad Mothers

Movies – especially horror and psychological thrillers – have always loved to explore and exorcise our deepest fears, and when it comes to mothers those fears are many. Read more »

5881861191_90de8b5bc9

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Making trolls eat their words

If we’re not conscious of a troll’s desired response, we risk inadvertently encouraging further trolling by allowing ourselves to be played. Read more »

filter

Reality vs. Instagram

It’s been over three years since Instagram launched, and we’re still not sure whether processing a photograph might be considered akin to doctoring a memory. Read more »

2014 Budget

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Could we crowdfund the dole?

Following the announcement of the 2014 budget, the director of a leading arts organisation posed a question on Facebook: ‘What recourse do the people have to stop these changes? What are next steps? Would be curious to know of any other effective measures to get the message across… apart from complaining on Twitter.’ Read more »

tumblr_inline_n6wz16ohb91r8e10g

Danielle Binks

YA is the New Black

Apparently those of us who do read and enjoy youth literature should be ‘embarrassed’. At least that’s what Ruth Graham said in her recent clickbait article for Slate, ‘Against YA’. Read more »

A Little Pretty Pocket Book

Danielle Binks

Who run the book world? GIRLS!

‘It’s no wonder boys aren’t reading – the children’s book market is run by women.’ So claimed the headline of an April article in The Times.

*Cue Liz Lemon eye-roll* Read more »

The Fault in Our Stars

Danielle Binks

The Fault in the Cult of John Green

I like John Green as much as the next YA-aficionado. I’ve snot-cried through his books, and chuckled over his YouTube videos. But now it’s time to talk about the media-led oversaturation of John Green, and the insulting way he’s been heralded as the saviour of young adult fiction. Read more »

splash

Chad Parkhill

Queering the Power: The Soft Pink Truth’s Why Do the Heathen Rage?

The Soft Pink Truth’s new album ‘Why Do the Heathen Rage’ demonstrates that despite their superficial differences, dance music and black metal have a lot in common. Read more »

The Knife

Chad Parkhill

Never Settled: The Knife’s Shaken-Up Versions

Making live electronic music engaging is a difficult task, and The Knife’s Silent Shout tour shows a band committed to breaking the visual cliché of performers standing still behind banks of electronic equipment. Read more »

Tori Amos

Chad Parkhill

Loving (and hating) Tori Amos

Tori Amos is hardly to blame for the existence of her fans’ expectations, nor for their disappointment when her work does not live up to them – but that doesn’t prevent that disappointment from feeling intensely personal. Read more »

Alg-90210-jpg

Stephanie Van Schilt

Sick-Person TV

The only upside to getting sick was the many afternoons I spent curled up on the couch at home, watching daytime TV. I inhaled the drama of pre-recorded episodes of Beverley Hills 90210 while playing with my Brandon and Dylan sticker collection (interspersed with sporadic vomiting). Read more »

The_Million_Dollar_Drop_logo

Nicholas J Johnson

Highbrow vs Lowbrow: Nicholas J Johnson defends Lowbrow TV

I can’t stop looking at Eddie McGuire’s smug, stupid face. It’s not my fault. It’s just I’ve never been this close to the man before, and it’s not until now that I’ve realised how oddly smooth and tanned his skin is. As if someone has stretched the orange bladder from a football over a slab of marble. Read more »

deadwood-03-1024

Zora Sanders

Highbrow vs Lowbrow: Zora Sanders defends Highbrow TV

I’m going to be honest with you. I feel a little guilty being gifted highbrow TV as a subject to defend. Highbrow TV doesn’t need a defender! It’s a battle that has been won! Highbrow TV is downright fucking awesome and every single person reading this already knows it. Read more »