Network effect, a.k.a. narcissism

Network Effect (definition shamelessly copied from Wikipedia): A network effect is the effect that one user of a good or service has on the value of that product to other people. When network effect is present, the value of a product or service is dependent on the number of others using it. The classic example is the telephone. The more people who own telephones, the more valuable the telephone is to each owner.

A year or so ago, there was some hubbub when Facebook bought Instagram and started to change its privacy settings. Instagram had been a small private company that did nothing except let you take pictures and post them. The app was (and still is) well done, easy to use, and easy to love. A large number of people I knew were on Instagram, and I enjoyed Instagram “likes” (I forget what they were called) and comments. It had been a decent, innocent company, until Facebook came along.

Once Facebook bought Instagram, their privacy policy changed, and I (and many others) did not like where they were going with it. Facebook soon retracted/changed their policy, but I was already too fed up (since I already did not like Facebook’s policies). I saved all of my Instagram pictures, deleted my account, and deleted the app.

Once I did that, I realized I had to find another way to post my beautiful cell phone pictures. So, I fell back on my trusty flickr account that had laid dormant for awhile. I dusted it off, downloaded the app, and reflected that the last time I had used flickr, most people didn’t have smartphones.

But here’s where the narcissism comes in. Flickr fulfilled my requirements, or so I thought, as it let me take pictures, put a filter on them, and post them online. The app wasn’t nearly as good as Instagram’s, but that was to be expected. The problem was – no one cared about my photos. Sure, I posted them to twitter and facebook, and got some comments. But no one was on flickr. The amount of feedback I got was drastically less than what it had been when I was using Instagram.

I find this Narcissistic Network Effect very interesting. The value I found in Instagram wasn’t just that other people were using it. It was that I was getting feedback and attention. I am on facebook because I can look up what many of my friends and family are doing. I wish I was back on Instagram because, honestly, my mediocre photos and I would be getting attention.

I still won’t go back to Instagram, because of its privacy policy and connection with Facebook. You might say I’m a little contradictory, since I use Facebook but won’t use Instagram, and you’d be right. But Facebook has a hold on me that is too strong for me to want to break (yet). There is too much information on Facebook that I could not easily get elsewhere, whereas Instagram it was all about me, so it was easier to break away from.

As more and more social networks pop up, and more young people get on, I wonder what they see as the purpose of these networks – to receive information, or to receive adulation?

And, as a side note, please sign up for flickr so I’m not so lonely 🙂