Context Collapse in Social Networks
October 21st, 2022

Context Collapse is the phenomenon in social network graphs when there are multiple audiences being served by the same communication channel, leading to an increased quality bar for engaging with the network. This audience problem causes abandonment of mature social graphs towards new social graphs as a way of starting fresh.

Context collapse occurs when the social graph grows too large to have a single social context. Small graphs tend to be homogenous—people who are all interested in the same topic, or people who are all part of the same social circles. As social graphs grow, they include people who are further away from the core sociographic and increase the quality bar to posting relevant content to all groups. Because fewer and fewer pieces of content can meet that quality bar, engagement goes down.

Context collapse causes abandonment from mature networks to newer networks (Twitter → Farcaster).
Context collapse causes abandonment from mature networks to newer networks (Twitter → Farcaster).

When I was at Facebook working on Stories, context collapse was the leading reason why people stopped posting. Instead of just being close friends, social graphs became full of old acquaintances, friends and family, and coworkers. In that environment, there is very little content that is worth posting to everyone.

Context collapse is why users abandon mature social graphs and start fresh with new social products. BeReal has blown up because its focus on authenticity and “real” friends. On Instagram, users create finstas to share to a smaller, more curated group of friends authentically.

Context collapse also explains the rapid rise and fall of new fad social networks. Clubhouse was wildly popular when it was a homogenous graph of Silicon Valley folks, but struggled once it grew into different social contexts.

User behavior indicates that we don’t actually want a massive social graph, and instead, smaller, targeted social graphs perform better.

View collectors
This entry has been permanently stored on-chain and signed by its creator.