Reihan: Social Software Gluttony

Check out this very smart post by Nat Torkington on the limits of social software.

I see it as Dunbar's Number (expanded by social software) clashing with a literally astronomical upper bound—there are only a finite number of hours in a day. Even when software lets us use our hours more productively, we simply expand the number of tools we use and the number of people we communicate with until we're out of time again.

Torkington ends with an almost-profound thought.

The acquisition drive for social contacts reminds me of the acquisition drive for material goods. At the risk of diving into the highly questionable field of evolutionary psychology, it's because we were limited for millennia. We could only have so many friends, there was only so much "stuff" to have. Those with a drive to collect friends or material possessions prospered and spread their genes. Now, thanks to Twitter and Wal-Mart, there's an endless supply of people to interact with and plastic objects to accumulate. Facebook is the candy bar of the 21st century—it tastes good because for millennia it was rare and necessary, not because in the modern day and age we actually need it. And, like sugar, it won't go away no matter how much we fret about it.

This reminds me of Tibor Scitovsky's The Joyless Economy. One of my dreams in life is to write The Joyful Economy, but I'm not sure anyone else would find this amusing.