The epicureans vs the propagandists: some thoughts on the evolution of Twitter and Instagram (with a jab at FB)

There are many different types of social media users, but the two that come to mind are the epicureans and the propagandists. The epicureans are the ones who take pictures of their food, of their parties, of their nails, their feet as they lounge on a recliner, their friends and their cats. The overall idea behind their use of social media is: life is good and meant to be enjoyed and here is me enjoying the things in my life. The propagandists are the ones that are promoting ideas. But not just promoting them, but wanting them to propagate. They write blog posts and tweet links and republish links with ICYMI (in case you missed it) in front of them. These are loose definitions, I confess, but let’s leave that for now.

When Twitter was in its early days, it was epicurean. Indeed, the joke was: who want to know what you are eating for lunch? For epicureans, this is easy to answer: I am enjoying this lunch and I think you would too so let’s share this information so we can both eat better and enjoy lunch more. Over time, though, Twitter has been overrun by the propagandists. I still see some epicurean tweets, but by and large, most tweets have switched to microblog posts.

There is nothing wrong with either style of posting, though I suspect the propagandists look down on the epicureans. I think it is a matter of style, taste, etc. There is no proper way to share information. Face to face, we all share a wide range of information constantly, from the commonplace (e.g. weather) to the sophisticated to the deeply meaningful to the shallow. The same will be truly when we use social technology to do this.

My personal taste is that I like a blend of the two, but that’s just me.  When I find twitter is getting too propagandistic, I find it too impersonal and shouty. That’s one of the reason I like when major events occur: twitter immediately switches to the personal and trends towards the epicurean, at least for a little while.

This brings me to Instagram. I love Instagram, just like I loved Twitter when I first started using it a lot. And I find right now Instagram is still epicurean. However, I am starting to follow people that are letting the propaganda slip in. It’s harder with photos, of course. If anything, they are less trying to propagate ideas and more trying to market events. Maybe that’s how Instagram will become: from epicurean to professional marketing. If that’s true, then my feelings towards it will become like how I feel about Twitter: still like it a lot, but no longer love it. As social media goes from being personal to being impersonal, it gets harder to love.

Maybe that is the key, more than anything. Once social technology becomes impersonal, the love you have for it burns off and it becomes simply a tool to communicate, like the phone. No doubt the social technology company will make money from their technology, but our love for the technology will be gone.

By the way, this is why I think Google will never get social technology right. They don’t get the epicurean / love aspect of social technology. They focus on the technology, not the love. The social technology that gets that first has a better chance to take off. Even Facebook was that way at first, in that we fell in love with the ability to reconnect with people. Facebook was best at that at first, and other factors like network externalities have helped it to cement a grip other social technology companies can’t muster. But enough has been said about Facebook this week, so enough on that.




One response to “The epicureans vs the propagandists: some thoughts on the evolution of Twitter and Instagram (with a jab at FB)

  1. This is an interesting post – I signed up for Twitter around 2008 as an ‘epicurean’ then I got bored in a month and never looked at it again until I started a wordpress blog this year, which was to motivate (myself) and to share ideas and good design I’d come across, like one of the ‘propagandists’.

    Then I started Twitting again (after all, what is a blog without a twit?) and realized I have very little interest in the people I followed in 2008 even though they’ve gone on to achieve quite a lot since. So I took a look back and read what I Twitted about and formed a opinion about myself and the people from 4 years ago then, and looked at who I follow now and who they follow and form opinions about the roads of information that they choose to reveal.

    The ‘epicurean’ ones now are not as hasty or spontaneous as they were when social media was budding. The ‘propagandist’ ones were no where nearly as sophisticated or articulate as they are now. So this evolution of personal discretion is what I find interesting – is it because of the information that’s available out there that matured us or that these platforms themselves force us to develop ourselves so we don’t lose interest? And that social media technology needs to keep reinventing itself to keep up with these exchanges, even though I have to say, when I didn’t even have Facebook or any online connection for a while, I didn’t mind not knowing what I was missing! šŸ™‚

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