It’s “a thing” – most people can agree on that. Everyone knows they should be tweeting interesting tidbits on Twitter and posting on Facebook; the more astute are stacking art they love on ArtStack, the platform for art I established in 2011, sharing daily moments on Instagram and pinning general interest photos on Pinterest. It’s easy to fall into a series of platitudes about social media, but what’s interesting is that the vast majority of people and companies have no real clue what they are doing with their myriad accounts or, indeed, why they are doing it.
The internet is growing up. We can all broadly agree on the logic by which search engines now organise the internet – for the last 15 years or so, Descartes’ philosophy could easily be reduced to “if it’s google-able, it exists”. Search engine optimisation (SEO) and paid advertising can help anyone marketing themselves to reach the top of their chosen list of terms when people search for them. And search itself weeds out the more personal sites that floated around like jetsam in the early days of the web. What social media does is flip this equation on its head: helping you reach people with content they care about at the point where they are engaging with things they find interesting.
When we set up ArtStack, we were trying to solve a typical 21st-century problem: how do I find art I like when I don’t know what I’m looking for? Search is great for finding things you know, but it’s impossible to search more ambiguously, to use search to discover things you don’t yet know. Search’s organisational structure is not based around a natural serendipity, so searching for “art I like which I don’t know”, although essentially human, is utterly ridiculous.