Sometimes we need a little friction
We recently read, “In Defense of Friction”
, a blog by Andrés Monroy-Hernández who writes for the Microsoft Research group The Social Media Collective
. The short blog references a paper by Berkeley Professor Coye Cheshire called “Online Trust, Trustworthiness, or Assurance?” The main point, argued by Monroy-Hernández, is that we shouldn’t hand over the reigns to social networks totally in order to automate social interactions.What does this mean, friction? Monroy-Hernández and Cheshire suggest that certain actions have levels of friction and, in some cases, a lack of friction is good. Take Groupon
for example; their site is extremely frictionless. By opting-in to their service, a platform which I trust, I store my credit card information with them, and all it takes for me to order a 70%-off deal on yoga classes is one click. Groupon has created a system of trust, that reduces friction between consumer and vendor. But in systems where the online relationship is more complex than consumer and vendor, friction is essential. These relationships range from online friendships to peer-to-peer exchanges. Monroy-Hernández uses the example of Facebook birthdays. Facebook reminds you of your friend’s birthday, and gives you a pop-up option reminding you to post on their wall. Facebook makes this interaction easy, it reduces the friction, and in turn, takes away from its intended meaning.Purchasing something from an online business should be frictionless. It is the exchange of money for a product. That interaction does not require any further context. But a new type of e-commerce is growing around the idea of giving online interactions more meaning. New peer-to-peer sharing, renting, and borrowing sites are working to create more meaningful and sustainable e-commerce through collaborative consumption. This type of interaction requires a higher level of trust and social reputation which must be earned by each individual, not generated by a computer. In the sharing economy, higher friction leads to higher reward. It’s not that being part of this new consumer network should be hard, it’s that it should be genuine.
Traditional e-commerce creates systems of trust to reduce friction and increase transactions. The sharing economy needs its own system that lets individuals build trust through friction. It should be frictionless to become part of the sharing economy’s trust system, but being a part of the system does not implicitly suggest you are trustworthy. Think of it like joining a gym. It should be easy to join the gym and the gym provides you with an opportunity to get in shape. But simply joining the gym does not get you in shape. You have to go, work hard, and keep at it. Like joining the gym, it should be easy to become part of the sharing economy’s trust system. But once you are part of the system you need continual friction to build and maintain a trustworthy online identity.