It seems to me that the search engines and social media sites aren't competing just for users or for advertising. They're competing for something much more valuable. They're competing for our time.
Even for college students, there's only so much of it.
For a long time, it didn't seem like too much of a worry. It was common knowledge that teens and college students were great multi-taskers. They could do everything at once. Listen to music, watch TV, do homework, check their Facebook pages, and eat Cheerios. Time was not such a big deal.
Recent research has shown that these people are not multi-tasking at all. They're simply very good at quickly switching from one thing to another --- much better than people over 30.
If they're also going to be relating to their friends on Google Plus (which already has millions of users on an invitation-only basis), that would leave a lot less time on Facebook.
Or maybe not. Maybe a lot less time, too, on TV and magazines. Or perhaps the victim will be real, live face-time with other people. As a former supervisor once told me, time, like old underwear, isn't elastic. He was speaking of the 30-second length of television commercials, but it applies here.
Ultimately, the big factor is relevance. We're not going to have any time for anything we're not interested in. Actually, that's always been true. We'll always be interested in relationships, though, and we'll certainly be interested in ourselves.
If you're in advertising or marketing today, these are key. What's interesting to the customer? How can I help her? How do I get her to spend some of her valuable time thinking about me and what I have to offer? And how in this world, where advertising is everywhere and so is Tivo, do I get her to remember me?
The things you don't like about ads and commercials, and the things you don't care about on Yahoo or Facebook, are in exactly the same category: what does it have to do with me?
We're not selfish, we're human. And it's human nature for us to want to be treated that way.