what you mean by “asymmetric replies to cues of social competition”?
Good question, @patm ! It is quite complex to answer properly, as it requires to explain sensitive and not obvious characteristics and effects of envy, show ubiquitous nature of envy, show that envy can be transformed from antisocial to prosocial envy, show how envy is abused by Social Media by enticing envy spirals via limiting ability for asymmetric replies, show consequences of this abuse on individual and society, show how Humane Design can be used to fix envy related issues on Social Media via supporting ability for asymmetric replies.
Below I try to briefly explain all of this, then maybe we can go into particular aspects more deeply.
Asymmetric replies to the cues of social competition are the replies that are not in the same comparison area.
When people are exposed to the cues of social comparison, their ability to compete asymmetrically should be supported and enabled. This is important as it enables transformation of antisocial, unproductive envy to prosocial, productive envy. Ability for asymmetric replies allows people to shift attention to different areas of comparison. It is beneficial on individual and society levels.
Current Social Media limits ability of people for asymmetric replies to cues of social comparison as it is not conducive to their main goal - maximization of user engagement. Most of the current Social Networking Services allow people to create Monolithic Social Profiles only. These profiles, limits discussion that people can have on Social Media Service, hence limits ability for asymmetrical replies to cues of social comparison. Limited ability for asymmetrical replies is detrimental for wellbeing for may people. It also negatively impacts values and main discussions that preoccupy society’s attention.
Specifics and illustrations
There are different areas and cues of social comparison: “physical attractiveness” – selfies, body shots; “social attractiveness” – group photos of activities with friends & family; “material/financial security attractiveness” – consumption of status goods (including experiences); “intelligence/moral attractiveness” – intelligence and character signaling posts; “Other/professional/usefulness attractiveness” – interests, humor related posts.
I will leave outside of this analysis the discussion about to what extent posts made on social media should be regarded as pure communication (exchange of information) only, versus social competition (cues for comparison). It can be argued by some that posts on social media is only about communication and people should not compare themselves to others. Is it so, or not, and to what extent, is a separate discussion.
Here I take it as evident, that consciously or unconsciously social comparison happens.
When people are exposed to cues for social comparison (especially from their immediate community) it leads to the feelings of envy, that contrary to common understanding can be useful-prosocial or malevolent-antisocial. Prosocial envy is when envier tries to emulate envied person, “become better”. Prosocial envy is good for envier and it is not dangerous for envied person. Antisocial envy happens when envier cannot or does not want to emulate envied person. Antisocial envy is detrimental to the wellbeing of the envier and may be dangerous to envied person as envier may try to “bring down” (troll, bully, etc.) the envied person.
Now, people are not equal in all areas of social comparison, also, people have different privacy preferences in regards to different areas. These facts, lead to inability of many people to answer to cues of social comparison symmetrically (in the same area of social comparison). Cues of social comparison that are left unanswered can lead to pent-up antisocial envy.
The key point of this discussion is that in order to resolve envy (transform it from antisocial to prosocial form) replies to cues of social comparison are not necessary to be symmetrical. Asymmetric replies are just as good or even better as symmetric replies.
Asymmetric replies to cues of social competition provides ability for people to transform antisocial envy into prosocial envy. This is especially important when people cannot or does not want to reply to the cues of social comparison in symmetrical way. It allows people to shift their attention and “become better” in other areas of social comparison.
It also allows society to focus social competition on the areas that are deemed the most beneficial for society.
Current Social Media
Current Social media built on the advertising business model is incetivized to get as much engagement from its users as possible. Ability for asymmetric replies is not conducive for the highest engagement. Quite contrary, it lowers engagement as everyone can post in their favorite area, which is not conducive to intensive discussions and envy spirals. That is why current social media limits ability of its users for asymmetric replies, by using Monolithic Social Profiles. Forcing its users to be limited to the main prevailing area of discussion per one Social Media Service. Monolithic Social Profiles are conducive to the creation of envy spirals. It also leads to the situation when majority of users passively watch posting activity of small minority.
Also, current Social Media use algorithms to keep people on one topic (that is the most important to particular Social Media service).
Current Social Media limiting impact on people’s ability to provide asymmetric replies, leads to the problems on individual level as well as on society level.
On individual level.
Limited ability for asymmetrical response leads to pent up antisocial envy, as not all can or want to reply symmetrically to the cues of social comparison. This antisocial envy is detrimental for wellbeing of the envier, and can also be detrimental to the envied person because of trolling, bullying etc from the envier.
On societal level, current Social Media practices lead to narrow and shallow discussions. Limits the ability of society to shift focus of social competition to the areas that are the most beneficial for the society.
In other words, it is not necessarily bad that current Social Media draws more attention to physical and social attractiveness (especially, if it activates prosocial envy, “activities to become better” (more fitness, better diet, etc) in this areas). What is bad is that ability shift focus, to have other discussions is now limited. A lot of portions of society are excluded, disengaged from discussions on Social Media.
Social Media based on Humane Design should be built in a such way that everyone can participate. It should be inclusive for all. It should be open to any area of discussion (inevitably social comparison) so that anyone can find area where they can post something and feel good about it.
Monolithic vs Compartmentalized Social Profiles
Monolithic Social Profiles are profiles that cannot be divided to different compartments to demonstrate different interests or sides of user’s personality, life.
Compartmentalized Social Profiles are such profiles that can be divided into different compartments to be used for presentation of different interests or sides of user’s personality, life.
Besides providing different views on different facets of personality, compartmentalization also enables layered privacy, and Compartmentalized Inverted Following that mimics real world relations.
Compartmentalized Inverted Following is ability for users to create different compartments for different sides of their personality and provide access for their followers to these compartments as they become closer, mutually exposed, mutually interested. It is similar to real world relations.
What does it mean in practice
Compartmentalized Social Profiles is what you get when you add Pinterest to Facebook, or Pinterest to Instagram, or Pinterest to Twitter. Google+ has tried to do this, but it confused its users due to bad implementation of Circles (privacy tools). Later they tried to fixed it by removing Circles, but at the end they recreated Pinterest (too much of Pinterest and too little of Facebook). It should have been vice versa - mostly Facebook + a bit of Pinterest.
Validbook Social Service - practical implementation
Validbook Social service is attempt to do this - to create Social Networking Service with humane, inclusive UX design. See social profile of our main test user - http://futurama1x.validbook.org/jimbo.fry
Idea of Validbook Social UX design in one formula:
Validbook Social = (Facebook + Pinterest)*(Comparmentalized Inverted Following Model)
On individual level Validbook Social allows everyone to be active, in their preferred area of discussion (inevitably social comparison), as per their age, personality, privacy preferences etc.
On community/society level it allows to shift focus of discussions to discussions that can be deemed most important by particular community/society.