Mobile, Online, Social Media

Shifting Social Engagements From Emotions to Utility

Late last week Pinterest announced it was doing away with the Like button for Pinned items and focusing on the Save button. Both have existed side-by-side for a while and have apparently been causing some confusion among users about what the difference between the two is so opted to streamline available engagement options.

What’s interesting to me is that Pinterest opted for utility over emotions. So much of the engagement on social networks is based around emotions. We Like this, we Fav that, we LOL emoji at this other thing. The internet wants us to react from our heart, not our head, to what other people or brands have published.

While that emotion-based engagement isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, there has been a shift into more pragmatic functionality on social networks and apps. Instagram doesn’t just want you to comment or like, it wants you to save other people’s photos to your own collection. Twitter will let you send Tweets directly, not just engage with them publicly.

There are other examples now and more are sure to come that, I think, show how the social web is maturing from what it once was. It’s no longer just a place to react to whatever your friends and family are posting, it’s a place to read the news. It’s a necessary tool for work for many of us. It’s a way to research new products we’re considering buying.

All of that is much more utilitarian than how social media was initially introduced. That’s how apps and networks are being used now, though. It’s not enough to see it in the moment, we want to save it for later or add it to our repository of information for future usage.

We may never shift to a social web that’s purely about utility. It will always be driven by emotion to a great extent. But there are ways that networks will shift in the near future to make their sites/apps more useful for those who need them for other reasons. Pinterest’s decision to prioritize Save over Like is just the latest indicator of that slow, long-term industry pivot.

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