The nuances of a livestream
Last week I livestreamed my lunch on Facebook…roughly 60 friends joined me as I ate alone in Abington Sq Park, and another hundred or so probably watched a recording of the live lunch that I published to Facebook after the session ended. My sister emailed me the next day and asked if I wanted to meet for lunch because “I seemed kind of lonely on my FB Live lunch.” I tried to explain that I wasn’t lonely at all, that live video is a thing now, and I was experimenting with a new publishing medium…but even after more explanation of the live streaming dynamics in China, why I was doing it, how people are making money doing it, etc…I’m not sure she’s totally on board.
Beyond FB, I’ve spent a time on some of the other livestreaming platforms, both watching the broadcast use case, but also getting a little more familiar with the more nuanced social dynamics at play…and while I understand the power of treating Live as a media opportunity, and why traditional publishers and fast following (or maybe now fast leading) influencers are trying to use it to connect with and grow their audiences, i think for everyday folks there are some more interesting opportunities that Live affords.
As I sat in the park, eating while trying to hold a steady camera in front of my face, I was actually reminded of the most interesting and gripping attribute of my experience in Virtual Reality. In VR, the killer experience for me is “presence.” I’ll define presence as “a feeling of really being there,” and if with others, social presence would be “a feeling of really being there with others who are really there.” In even the most elementary of chat applications in VR (i think v-time is the one I used most), I felt that I was actually with whoever I shared a virtual room with…in a way that most aysnch or near real time experiences, never really achieved. As I streamed live during lunch, while the experience of interacting with those who joined my stream was still quite clunky (comments in 2-way communication in FB Live needs a serious UX overhaul), I did feel a sense of presence and togetherness that certainly doesn’t materialize through any other publishing platform I’ve used to date. Interestingly, when contrasted with say Facetime (which is 1-1), the feeling of streaming to many with lower commitment and expectation of dedicated attention, actually INCREASED the sense of presence I experienced at lunch. With Live, there’s an ability to “be” in whatever environment your in…to remain one foot in the real world…not sucked into the screen completely in the way Facetime requires…and somehow that “being” and “being with yourself” while “being with others” makes for a more realistic and true sense of presence than simply “communicating” through an app like Facetime…there’s a difference between being and communicating…and Live is this weird and perhaps beautiful mix of the two.
From far away I looked at FB Live as just another place to broadcast, but up close it appears to be a place to feel connected, to fight lonliness, to be present with your friends, and maybe even to broadcast your availability (whether in person or virtually) without the stigma of a status update that says “anyone want to go to the movies?”
In some sense, if FB status update is saying “what’s on your mind?” and a Tweet is saying “what’s happening?”, a live stream might be saying “I’m here, I’m present” and the use cases that emanate from that statement push well beyond “listen to what I have to say” into “I am available to talk,” “I am free to meet,” “Let’s be together,”…i guess maybe what i’m saying is that livestreaming feels as much an invitation as it does a statement…and that’s unique in a publishing platform.