Yesterday, a friend told me the story of last year’s summer internship competition at Saatchi & Saatchi. Eager young beavers had to start a Facebook group, and the one whose group got the most members won the coveted internship. Only problem: within two weeks, Bristol university graduate Tiffany Philippou’s brainchild, Secret London—devoted to sharing members’ inside knowledge of London’s more elusive delights—had won 182,010 members and promptly morphed into a startup.
Marvellous, the power of the web. What interests me, though, is why Secret London worked so well. For starters, it’s a self-evidently good idea. People love sharing inside information about bars, gigs, bands and locations on social networking platforms. That’s why yoof spends so much time online, up to its armpits in Tweets and tinyurls. But why do they love it quite so much—and what larger social purposes is it serving?
Think of yourself for a moment as a node: your web presence a pinprick connected to millions of others via everything you’ve said and done online. What is it that gives your particular online presence value—and status? It’s not your unerring ability to regurgitate received opinions, or type “lol” a dozen times. It’s the content you generate that’s unique to you: what you actually think, where you’ve actually been, the things that only you know. Largely,…