On the affordance of convenience…

The internet can do a lot of things and it’s accessed everywhere. It’s found on our computers, tablets, phones, TV, cars, watches, and even exercise equipment! And, as if constant access to information, news, and entertainment isn’t enough to distract and disrupt, there are countless apps that offer us structured mechanisms for activities and to social networks. Now, the real question lies in app or device preference, even if they seem redundant.

Academically there is a term that explains the circumstance of all of what the environment offers us, it’s called an affordance. It’s like having the options we have. Digitally we seem to have countless options with countless apps. But simply having affordances, or options, doesn’t answer why people post videos to TikTok and Triller to then share them on Facebook and Twitter, but not SnapChat or LinkedIn. But I have a theory.

I believe it comes down to how we view our audiences on these social platforms and what is convenient—device and technology wise. Here are a few examples about how I see it.

Firstly, would you ever post a throwback family holiday card with grandma wearing an ugly sweater on LinkedIn? Maybe, if there was a way to connect it to your professional development, career insights, or even some product like photo restoration. However, barring those attributes, it’s appropriate for Facebook, probably too because people in the photo are part of that network. On Facebook that post could offer some laughs and even nostalgia. If you posted it to Twitter, the universe, which is usually a bit wider, and you’d expect some teasing about the hair, make up, or holiday decor. Those comments, depending on your privacy settings, could even get a little snarky.

It would seem that the determining factor for posting that photo is largely audience universe based. Where would it have the most relevance or meaning to the network you have curated. It’s my observation that such considerations are made when choosing to create a silly lip-sync video on Triller verses TikTok. Triller offers a smaller more musically driven public, where TikTok is much larger and has a varied genre of video categories. I might feel more comfortable posting me lip-syncing to the new Selena Gomez single on Triller than TikTok, mostly because on Triller, I would probably be in good and fun company with a network that is doing the same.

Now for my second theory about affordances—convenience. For this example, I need not go far for something we can all relate to—checking and replying to an email on your phone, while sitting in front of the computer. Am I right? We’ve all done it, but why? I’ve often laughed about this behavior with coworkers. The answer is part muscle memory and convenience.

Muscle memory is a term used to explain the ease in completing a procedural activity, motion, or action based on memory through repetition. I believe that we carry our mobile phones and text —using the keyboard with our thumbs so often, and way more than our computer keyboard—that using it to reply to an email has become an almost natural feeling based on muscle memory.

Convenience plays a part too. Sometimes I’m working on a document, watching a video, or have a window open outside of my Outlook mailbox and replying to an email on my phone is just easier. The fact that smart phones allow such an affordance makes everything that is on them—apps, cameras, videos, etc.—more engaging—and we prefer them because of their convenience.

Published by Mona Lisa

I am an experienced corporate communications and public affairs professional with expertise in crisis communications, reputation management, external relations, and government affairs. Recognized by the Houston Business Journal as one of Houston's Top 40 Under 40, I have spent much of my career working for multinational corporations supporting corporate communications, government and public affairs, and community investment. I am completing my masters degree in communications at Syracuse University.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: