Photo sharing is essential for any social network to thrive. Facebook apparently has 90 billion total photos. 90 BILLION!
Why is that?
Simply put, our lives are told with pictures now. We can summarize our daily activities within the constrains of 160 characters, we can blog or post to Facebook, or we can share photographs.
Which is why social networks want to highlight photo sharing as a prominent feature. It’s the easiest way to tell stories, to share our thoughts and current events, and to engage people we know. Not only that, but with things like filters, tagging, and adding location, photo sharing has become streamlined and a lot more fun.
From the most mundane activities, like what you ate for dinner,
or pictures of your pup
to something spectacular that you’d like to share,
to something tender,
to something silly.
It’s not even a matter of saving these moments for later. Photo sharing has changed the way we experience events as they occur. It’s become very common that for every holiday, every concert, and every meal, people are constantly whipping out their phones to carefully document all that goes on in their lives. Which isn’t to say that’s a bad thing, it’s simply another way social networking has impacted our lives.
Jenny’s previous post on using Glassboard at conferences got me thinking about a recent trend that we’re seeing, that new social networks like ours are helping to foster. The trend is described as ‘shared experiences’ and it represents the benefits you get from mutual participation, and how the dynamics of an event can change once others are involved. This isn’t a new concept, but the ways and means by which people are creating shared experiences is becoming more common as services like Glassboard make it easier to communicate and coordinate groups of people.
A great example of a shared experience can be seen through the antics of Improv Everywhere; the people who brought you “Frozen Grand Central” or “No Pants Subway Rides“. Charlie Todd organizes massive groups of people to perform really outlandish activities, and each of these ‘missions’ is truly unique and special. One of the goals for these projects is to “give people a story they can tell for the rest of their lives”, and in many cases Charlie’s done just that, both for the knowing and unknowing participants. Charlie has discovered a multiplier effect that comes about when you put large groups of people in uncommon situations. The magnitude of the experience is amplified by the number of people involved and it creates an event that is larger than the sum of the parts. If Charlie was to stand frozen in Grand Central all by himself it would not have nearly the same impact.
Another great example of the power of a shared experience can be seen in Derek Sivers analysis of “Leadership lessons from Dancing Guy”. If you haven’t seen this video, take three minutes and watch it. In a TED talk from 2010, Derek dissects the process of creating a movement through the example of a guy dancing at a music festival. Derek’s points talk about leadership and the birth of a movement, but what we also see is the transformation of an experience – from a single, odd guy dancing by himself to a massive group of people celebrating the moment. Its wonderful.
But shared experiences aren’t just limited to car alarm symphonies or flashmobs. People can come together for a variety of reasons and benefit from shared experiences, as seen by the Polymath Project and other programs designed to engage smart people from all over to solve extremely complex problems. For others, shared experiences can come from the simplest of situations: conferences, classes, or even family reunions. In these situations, you don’t always need to get everyone to sing the pythagorean theorem a capella to make it special, all you need is to engage people and lead them to a common outcome, be it collaborative note taking in a training seminar, or organizing the after-after party at a conference. Either way, you never know when creating your own shared experiences will “give you stories that you can tell for the rest of your life”.