Eugene Wei: Why We’re All Status Monkeys on Social Media – Recode Media with Peter Kaftka

Key Takeaways

  • People are status seeking monkeys
  • The internet (with social networks) has turned status seeking from a local to a global game
  • Social networks are fairly boring without the status features (likes/retweets/shares)
  • Looking forward, more of the large social networks are going to start expanding utility
    • This will make it MUCH harder to displace them
      • It’s very easy to stop using Facebook today, but with something like WeChat in China – it’s much, much harder (it’s how you pay for things)
    • What might this look like?
      • Instagram adding more convenient shopping features
      • Facebook deploying its own cryptocurrency
  • In this day and age, all forms of entertainment compete with all forms of entertainment
  • “I think the world would be much more interesting if Apple, with their huge amounts of cash on hand, really did decide to take on Netflix”

Intro

What’s Eugene been up to?

  • Advising various companies
  • Meeting with lots of people trying to figure out what’s next for him work wise (but he’s in no rush)
  • Writing on his blog

Eugene’s Latest Blog Post – Status as a Service

  • Two principles:
    • People are status seeking monkeys
    • People seek out the most efficient path for maximizing social capital
  • The internet (with social networks) has turned status seeking from a local to a global game
    • Whereas once you were competing for status with only people in your tribe, now you’re competing for status with nearly everyone in the world
  • Facebook, Twitter, etc. are using status as a way to grow their businesses with things like likes/retweets
    • But in many ways, these status seeking features MAKE the network – they’re boring without it
  • Status and the younger crowd:
    • One way to look at things – Young people seek status through Instagram likes, while adults seek status through material items/their job titles

Should other companies, like Netflix, take advantage of social status seeking?

  • It’s tough – you need some sort of “proof of work” to earn the status
    • Like taking a beautiful photo on Instagram
    • Or composing a witty tweet under 280 characters
  • For one – many people don’t want to share what they’re watching on Netflix
  • Second – It’s probably more “low status” if you spend 5 hours a day watching a certain show

What surprised Eugene when writing Status as a Service?

  • “Our mental models of social networks will be more complete if we just factor in status as one more element as to why certain networks work and others don’t”
  • Eugene thinks we’re at the end of this “first generation of large social networks”
    • Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have been big for a number of years now 
    • Society is taking a look back at this first era of social networks to see what went right/wrong and figure out how to change the networks moving forward

The Future of Social Networks

  • If certain networks “lock in” too much status for people who are already on the networks, then a new generation of younger people will come along and say:
    • “I don’t want to be on this network because the status has already been drained out of the system”
    • Or – “It’s just too hard for me to break through”
    • For example – it’s way harder to get a decent following on YouTube nowadays if you’re just starting out
  • More of the large social networks are going to start expanding utility
    • This is similar to how in China, you can use WeChat to pay for stuff at a restaurant or call a car
    • “Status is inherently volatile and you don’t want to be managing a network built only on status”
    • This will make it MUCH harder to displace these networks
      • It’s very easy to stop using Facebook today, but with something like WeChat in China it’s much, much harder (it’s how you pay for things)
    • What might this look like?
      • Instagram adding more convenient shopping features
      • Facebook deploying its own cryptocurrency
  • One example of this already – Facebook breaking out Messenger into a separate app

The Hedonic Nature of Status Seeking

  • “There’s something about playing a status game for a long time…it’s like eating too much sugar. You feel sick from doing it.”
    • At first 50 likes on a tweet is great, but over time it doesn’t satisfy you and you need 100 to feel good etc. – it can get tiring

On Twitter Removing Likes, Retweets, and Follower Counts

  • “We ALL crave some level of distinctiveness” 
    • It could work, but people have a tendency to just navigate towards the things they can use to distinguish themselves from others
  • Just remember – “People really want a sense of self-worth and identify from social networks”

Amazon

  • “Amazon has replaced Apple for the consumer internet company that people are most interested in and most optimistic about” – Peter
  • “One of Jeff Bezo’s strengths is to just be laser-focused on the business. He compartmentalizes all that’s not important and focuses on what is important.” – Eugene

Entertainment

  • At any moment, you as a content creator are competing with EVERYONE and EVERYTHING
    • “In the consumer’s mind now, all forms of entertainment trade off against each other”
    • All forms of entertainment compete with all forms of entertainment
  • “I think the world would be much more interesting if Apple, with their huge amounts of cash on hand, really did decide to take on Netflix”
    • With all their free cash, Eugene thinks it would be a credible strategy

Random

These notes were edited by RoRoPa Editing Services

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