Is All This Sharing Really… Sharing?

Quick thought on the ubiquity of sharing… Retweets, reposts, links, shares… there are countless ways to propagate information, funny stories, things of interest (and obviously I rely on that for people to end up reading here.)

But I began thinking yesterday… all of these shares are ‘non rivalrous.’ A rivalrous good, in economics, is one which is destroyed by consumption. If we have a pint of beer between us on a table, then me drinking means that you cannot – because my use consumes it.

An idea, on the other hand, is non rivalrous: if I have an idea and share it with you, then the knowledge has not diminished through use, but grown. As Thomas Jefferson rather poetically put it, ‘he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.

The ‘sharing’ that is going on so much on Facebook and Twitter and other social networks is of this ‘non rivalrous’ nature. And we can see why it’s so popular – because it’s just so easy. It just takes a click of a button. And that’s a good thing.

But there’s a sense in which this sort of sharing does not cost me anything. And actually, that’s an impoverished view of what sharing should be about.

In the traditional sense, sharing has also been about hospitality. If I share my food with someone hungry, then that is rivalrous sharing, and that actually costs something. If I share my wealth, my property, my time – these are all things that are costly. And it’s this sort of sharing, this sharing that costs something, that I wonder may be being diminished in a more online world – even though we might not notice, because of all the other ‘shares’ that are flying around.

Of course, if something costs nothing…it can be worth very little. And, conversely, I’m thinking more about the importance and worth of rivalrous sharing, and how much more rewarding that can be than a quick click.

So…I hope you share these thoughts widely. But then I wonder if you might try to share something that is a little more costly than a retweet…because it’s that sort of sharing that will, in the end, change the world, a little at a time.



5 responses to “Is All This Sharing Really… Sharing?”

  1. The really valuable online sharing comes from the people who put in the time to write/draw/research/photograph/make/embellish stuff that is worth sharing. But I think that there is also value in the retweeting/reblogging/sharing. Those people are sharing their attention and influence with the makers.

  2. I think this can go a step further, where people are chasing value and status from what they’re associating themselves with via social media. They’re (we are, i am) trying to profit from social interaction that has no cost.

    Its easy to fall into the trap of trying to gain “something for nothing”, by performing an action (‘sharing’) that costs nothing and often achieves little of practical benefit, but from which one still expects to receive something worthwhile as a consequence; kudos, respect, a sense of belonging or community or self-worth based on others’ admiration.

    As opposed to commenting or contributing to a dialogue which costs time and thought and communicates respect and engagement with someone else’s thoughts and efforts.

    It’s good to draw attention to good stuff. But when it becomes about drawing attention to oneself or attempting to create a false image of who i am by calculated associations, i think that’s unhealthy. And when this interaction starts to replace collaborative work, or online dialogue or face to face communication then it turns out that there’s a hidden cost after all.

  3. Almost feel guilty sharing this now!

  4. Where’s the like button for Alex’s comment?

  5. Michael

    Hey Kester,

    Sorry, this is an unrelated post about this specific post:

    Below is someone you should look into who might be a bit beyond stage 3; he appears to still hold on to some of his traditional Christian beliefs but his lyrics are a bit dark(er) nonetheless: