With a generation that has become very savvy with how the Web works, one of the obsessions we have is with how people interact with our updates and posts. It's understandable really, humans are designed to seek acknowledgement from others and as sad as it sounds, people liking and sharing our content validates our ideas and thoughts. It's completely narcissistic but it's something that's ingrained into our psyche.
Yet the one thing we know from how we interact with other people's content is that we're quite passive. For every post we interact with, there are perhaps 20 or 30 posts that we gloss over and there are numerous profiles that we visit and check on a daily basis. Considering that on Facebook alone, we're already seeing who viewed a post in our groups and how many people saw our posts on our brand pages, would there ever be a possibility of a similar system being introduced for personal profiles, especially since Facebook gives you the option to promote your own posts?
Narcissism At Work
Going by theory alone, you could say that there's a demand for this. Our own blog published a post back in 2009, which referred to an app that got more than five million downloads in a day, simply because it promised to show you who viewed your profile. It became one of our most popular posts on the site to the point that even to this day, it's regularly placed in our top posts every week.
The fact that there are still people regularly searching for and viewing this post tells us that there is a significant appetite for such a service. And that's not even getting into the fact that there are regularly spam links appearing that promise you such a feature would appear. But if Facebook or Twitter decided one day that it wanted to introduce such a feature, how would it work in practice?
Perhaps the most obvious example to look at is LinkedIn. Because it's a site that people check every so often - although the company is making inroads to ensure that it becomes a more regular destination for users - people would use that time to check different accounts as they try to develop new connections. However, that means that unless you're a premium user, they will see that you've viewed their profile. Sometimes this can be a good thing; the people checking your account are those who you would like to connect with and could potentially help your career. Other times, you can be left scratching your head as to why certain people looked at your profile in the first place.
Whatever your opinion is on it, the function serves a purpose for the site. By seeing that people were interested in checking your profile, it provides an excuse to get in touch or start a dialogue. Since networking is difficult enough in real-life, it can be a welcome relief when people come to you instead of the other way around.
However, in the case of Facebook, Twitter or Google+, the reasoning for introducing such an option would be to appease our narcissistic side. From first glance, the only purpose such a service would provide is already being used on pages with the 'x people saw this post' you find at the bottom of each post. Considering that Facebook wants subscriptions to become a more popular feature - one that hasn't exactly gone to plan for a few reasons - wouldn't it be useful for the more popular profiles like Zuckerberg's to have this feature in place?
The second problem this would create is similar to the criticism leveled at the likes of services such as Klout. By introducing such a metric, people would try and game the system and only post content that they know will work. Since the core of social media is about sharing interesting (and sometimes mundane) content organically, it would only mean less posts and more planning. Some people already do this, but introducing such a feature would only grow this practice as everyone fights for attention.
To cut a long answer short, introducing such a feature onto any site that is regularly checked would result in chaos. I don't think I'm alone in saying that I'm not sure I would want people to know whether I viewed a profile or not, especially if someone is expecting or hoping me to weigh in on a topic. Or if after becoming friends with someone, I find that they looked through the entirety of my profile.
The second thing is, if we could see that people viewed our profile, it would fundamentally change our own behaviours, and how we interact with the site. These sites are designed for us to take in as much information as possible and discover new pages and profiles to follow. Changing this will ultimately curb down on exploration since we don't want to look like we're constantly viewing someone's profile. And one can only imagine what would happen if we could see how many times a person viewed our profile.
It would be fun for a few days, but the sheen would wear off quickly and we would be baying for each other's blood when it would become the norm. In some cases, ignorance really is bliss.
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