Facebook Has Become the Wal-Mart of Social Media, Leading to the Rise of 'Boutiques'


A world without “friction.” 

It’s an interesting thought, and odds are that you or someone you know is already using at least one of these so-called “frictionless apps” right now. 

But in a world that is becoming more and more connected, some sites are trying to scale back.

A recent Huffington Post article from Bianca Bosker details the rise of what she calls the “less is more” side of social networking. While sites like Facebook and Twitter are awash in seemingly pointless updates of even the most mundane activities, rival pages are attempting to encourage more “worthwhile” sharing.

The most extreme example Bosker cites is “The Best Thing This Year,” a social mailing list that allows users to post once – and only once – every year. For all of the other days, subscribers receive a posting from one of the other members and await their time in the spotlight. 

Of course, there are less severe options. “Viddy,” a video sharing website that caps all contributions at 15 seconds, may encourage more thoughtful posts that make clever use of the short window. While YouTube’s more lenient time limits allow for more rambling and gag videos, Viddy attempts to capture that perfect feeling of “Life in the Moment.” The plan, unfortunately, is far from foolproof.  

There are other examples: “Path,” billed as a sort of “personal journal” between close family and friends, sets itself to private and caps off your connections at 150 people. The idea is establishing a closed social media between those who really care about the people in their network and sharing the things that actually matter.

So what can we make of this new trend?

What seems to be happening here is very similar to what’s happening in other markets. Amongst all the mass-production and cookie-cutter consumption of the modern world, we’re seeing the re-emergence of words like “artisan,” “boutique,” “small-batch,” and “handcrafted.” 

After all, as much as we may shop at Wal-Mart, there’s that little piece inside of you that just hates the very thought of the place. Facebook is no different: most of us can’t stand half of what ends up on the news feeds, but we keep coming back because it seems to offer everything in one convenient place.  Facebook is, for all intents and purposes, the Wal-Mart of social media.

But ultimately, people are going to seek a more intimate and, possibly, a more beautiful experience.  There is a lot to be said for the social network bubble and all that it has accomplished, but there is also a very inhuman aspect to what it has become. It forces us to condense things into digestible little pieces, but it also encourages us to share almost everything that we do.  Human beings don’t live that way, and, in the long term, I’m not convinced that they’ll choose to.

So while options are currently a bit limited, the future of these “boutique” social media networks may be quite bright.  In the same way that people are trying to embrace the tradition of handmade goods, we should soon see the market for a smaller, more focused social media outlet open up.