From Cave Drawings to Instagram: Human Communication Comes Full Circle (and more insights from Mary Meeker’s 333 page internet trends report)

Cave Drawing from Wikipedia

Cave drawings were the Instagram of 40,000 years. If you were a caveman who needed to share your exploits with your friends you had to bust out the chalk and draw deer or whatever was cool at that time. Now we can snap a Gram of anything and everything and share it with all of our friends.

Is that such a bad thing? Sure, writing has taken a hit. For many people, especially for digital natives, gone are the handwritten letters of yore and in are countless pictures documenting your everyday experiences.

From my perspective, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I won’t defend the eschewing of writing in exchange for sharing pictures, I think being a competent writer is a good thing for many reasons, not least of which being the ability to formulate thoughts and make an argument, but I don’t think that sharing pictures of yourself is the end of communication. Anything but.

For many people, Instagram is a great way to communicate their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Not all people use Instagram for these purposes, some people do use Instagram and other social media networks to build up a facade and create an alternative narrative about their lives, but there are many, many others who use Instagram as a way to more effectively and efficiently communicate with their loved ones and friends.

What sparked all of this for me was reading through the highlights of venture capitalist and internet trends monitor Mary Meeker’s annual internet trends report. Specifically, this part about how Twitter is now mostly images: “Images are increasingly the means by which people communicate, as technology developments like faster wifi and better phone cameras have encouraged a surge in image taking. More than 50 percent of Twitter impressions now involve posts with images, video or other media; Twitter used to be text-only.” If images are truly worth a thousand words then this is a brilliant way to get around the character limit on Twitter.

Some other insights from the report:

  • Ecommerce now represents almost 16% of retail sales
  • It looks like all relevant measures of internet growth, rather sales or number of users, is still positive but the rate of growth is slowing
  • Customer acquisition costs are higher than the lifetime value of those customers in some niches; recommendations and free trials might be the solution to lowering customer acquisition costs moving forward
  • People are spending more than six hours on a digital device every day; tying it back to Instagram and pictures in general, pictures are more easily consumed than other content; there is an effort to help consumers limit device usage… however, the algorithms that savvy websites use keep people on their sites longer (doesn’t that nullify the whole limiting device usage thing?)
  • If your business is primarily local, and most businesses are, you should develop a strategy for leveraging Nextdoor because it’s growth curve is still explosive
  • Privacy concerns are declining; companies and governmental organizations having access to your information is becoming the new normal

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