The Frictionless Life and Its Discontents: You Heard It Here First

Nick Carr links to a post by Michael Loukides, “The End of the Social,” which takes aim at the automated sharing of music via the Spotify/Facebook alliance. Loukides observes:

“It is meaningful if I tell you that I really like the avant-garde music by Olivier Messiaen. It’s also meaningful to confess that I sometimes relax by listening to Pink Floyd. But if this kind of communication is replaced by a constant pipeline of what’s queued up in Spotify, it all becomes meaningless. There’s no “sharing” at all. Frictionless sharing isn’t better sharing; it’s the absence of sharing. There’s something about the friction, the need to work, the one-on-one contact, that makes the sharing real, not just some cyber phenomenon. If you want to tell me what you listen to, I care. But if it’s just a feed in some social application that’s constantly updated without your volition, why do I care?”

Loukides in turn links to a post by Andrés Monroy-Hernández, “In Defense of Friction,” in which the author takes aim at systems of automated trust in online environments. He also challenges the ideal of frictionless social interactions:

“In many scenarios, automation is quite useful, but with social interactions, removing friction can have a harmful effect on the social bonds established through friction itself. In other cases, as Shauna points out, ‘social networking sites are good for relationships so tenuous they couldn’t really bear any friction at all.’

I am not sure if sharing has indeed been ruined by Facebook, but perhaps this opens new opportunities for new online services that allow people to have ‘friction-full’ interactions.”

Following the potential rabbit hole one link further, Monroy-Hernández links to a post by Molly Wood on the pitfalls of frictionless sharing:

Frictionless sharing via Open Graph recasts Facebook’s basic purpose, making it more about recommending and archiving than about sharing and communicating. That’s a potentially dangerous strategy–not just because oversharing diminishes our interest in sharing but also because it’s tweaking the formula that made the site a winner in the first place.

All of this to remind you that you heard it here first: A Frictionless Life is Also a Life Without Traction.

Traction implies resistance and sometimes trouble, but it also presents us with the opportunity to navigate meaningfully.  A frictionless life may promise ease and a certain security, but it also leaves us adrift, chasing one superficial pleasure after another; never satisfied, because we never experience the struggle against resistance that is essential to a sense of accomplishment.  The trajectory of our desire toward a frictionless life, then, may paradoxically leave us unable to find meaningful satisfaction or a sense of fulfillment.

Read the rest if you missed it the first time back in May.

Glad the notion is catching on!

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