- the strength of weak ties - good things come from a friend of a friend of a friend
- the zero marginal cost for additional digital copies - adding more friends, followers, subscribers costs nothing and provides something
- bigger is better - quantity is impressive when we're trying to impress others and overcome our own insecurities, inferiority or isolation convictions
- it's the latest thing - never mind whether it's really good, it's good enough to be all the rage and the bandwagon to climb aboard
As I see all this occurring, it seems to me that social networks are a phenom of conflating connections and helpfulness. Because these huge networks are not really helpful, it becomes difficult to define what we mean by the term "network". It's an image thing rather than a functionality or dynamic system. It's going nowhere quickly rather than making significant differences.
When we make a thing of connecting, we've created an institution devoted to it's own self preservation. There's no end in sight to the monstrous machine which devours the widespread contributions to its existence by those making a thing of connecting. The individual participants form a public mandate to continue rather than user contexts to observe closely, niches to understand and segments to serve.
When authentic helpfulness goes unquestioned, we've created a nightmare scenario. We've trapped ourselves in a seemingly inescapable obligation which overrides our intrinsic motivations and natural curiosity. We become addicted to the chronic deprivation. We lose sight of our seeking helpfulness, not quantities of connections, in the first place.
The process of helping is different from the process of connecting. It's costly. It forms strong ties for the time being. When the result gets experienced as truly helpful to another, the connection is complete. It can be dropped as if the process of helping has ended up in wonder, spaciousness and mysteriousness. Helpfulness gets conflated with spaciousness, not with quantities of connections or with social networks.
I expect this conflating of connections and helpful is burning itself out. It's running its course and setting the stage for something better to come along. I'm foreseeing the emergence of authentic helpfulness in un-network spaces that rely on a paradoxical sense of connecting without connection.