It’s funny. Whenever we’re trying to decide on something – something to buy, something to do – we listen to our friends. We don’t necessarily follow their advice, but we want it.
Yet nowadays, there are any number of online sources where you can find recommendations and reviews, often from experts, and if not from experts, from large numbers of people. True, many of these ‘reviews’ are spurious, written and posted for gain, but sheer weight of numbers gives them some authority. Yet even if we look at these sources, we still listen to our friends.
Why? In many of the things they talk about, our friends could hardly be considered experts – often the opposite. And in any given category of interest, the range of examples they know about is small. On the other hand, they know us, they know our tastes, our sense of priorities, the experiences we’ve had and the way these have affected the decisions we’re likely to make. They care about us and, if they’re true friends, aren’t motivated by anything other than goodwill. So there are good reasons for us to pay attention to what they say, even if they’re not experts in the area.
But I think there’s more to it than that.
We’re odd creatures, us humans. Unable to survive alone, we exist in a constant state of tension between cooperation and competition with our fellows. As one of the ways to manage this tension, all societies practise forms of gift-giving, often accompanied by elaborate rituals. These serve to cement our ties and reinforce the social norms that enable us to live alongside one another. They also fulfil the surprisingly powerful drive that we have towards altruism and our inherent tendency to reciprocity.
To me, recommendations amongst friends is a form of gift-giving. When someone asks for advice – or unprompted – the giving of a recommendation is a form of altruism, a giving of something without necessarily any expectation of return. But then our drive to reciprocity encourages us to respond with our own recommendations, when the opportunity arises, and so the exchange amongst friends continues, strengthening bonds and laying down shared experiences.
One of the downsides of modern social media is the way it has diluted this experience. While vastly expanding the scope of contacts that are available to us, it has made our interactions more superficial, less personal, less meaningful. The easier it is to press a ‘Like’ button on Facebook, the less meaning that Like holds – the less it has been thought about, the less it stands out as a personal communication from the thousands, or millions, of other Likes that are being pressed at the same moment.
Or if we have a gift of a recommendation, we shout it out into the vastness of space, on Tripadvisor, on IMDB, cementing no personal connection, getting little satisfaction and wondering, eventually, why we bothered.
teepee is designed to be exceptionally practical – to enable you to get the information that you need, when you need it, so you can get more from the things you do. But in building teepee, we were also conscious of trying to create a social media approach that would help bring back the meaningful personal connection that has been so largely lost.
Our iconic Ask/Tell screen, which is where the app opens, is a moment of gift-giving: when you press Tell and send a recommendation to four or five of your friends, you are giving them a gift of your knowledge, and when you press Ask, you’re cementing your friendship by telling your chosen friends that you have turned to them for help. You come closer to your friends and add another layer to the connections that bind you.
It’s only a small thing, but it’s moments like these that are what it means to be human.
teepee is free to download , and we’ve made sure you can connect with your friends even if they ‘re not on teepee yet!