Dribbble has Run Dry(bbble)
There is a place for aesthetic junk food. The pure, unadulterated, design porn that has no true usefulness. Dribbble was never intended to be that, and yet, Dribbble is now porn.
How did it turn into a useless shell of good intentions? Through the same issue researchers have found in other social media platforms: the toxic feedback loop.
Like Facebook and Instagram, the Dribbble system feeds directly into the feedback loop that plagues us daily. This loop inundates our minds with sparks of dopamine (happy feelings), leading to an ever-present need for these hits of “joy” and an inevitable depressive state when the hits don’t come. But Dribbble is worse than these platforms because it is our WORK we post for praise. Nothing else. The thing which builds our livelihood is seen only as valuable as the number next to a tiny heart.
When referring to Facebook and other social media platforms like it, former Facebook exec Chamath Palihapitiya is quoted saying, “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works.” (read the Verge article)
I am not trying to say Dribbble is ripping apart our society, but it directly mimics the functions Facebook has created, which through deduction leads to a fractured and hollow community.
As it exists, Dribbble is wistfully inspiring at best, and at worst it parades design for the sake of design, as a viable path to niche stardom and big clients. This may have worked for a select few and early adopters, but it is unlikely to work for most. Taking it a step further, this is not the path to legitimately impactful and great work.
I know Dribbble set out to do something good. They wanted to build a hub for creative folk who have similar interests, give them the ability to share their work, and provide an opportunity to engage with their fellow design peeps. This is brilliant and necessary, and the flaw was not in its intentions; it was in its reliance on the people who support the community. We as a species have an innate inability to see the difference between a digital “atta-boy” and actual valuable praise.
Knowing it is human nature which failed the system, knowing how the action of “liking” something and receiving a “like” rewires our poor susceptible brains, the moral course of action is to reevaluate the platform's purpose.
So, how can Dribbble save itself?
Ditch the like. Plain and simple.
Push the community to engage on a more substantive level. Saying “I love it! It's perfect! Never change!” helps no-one, and I am guilty of this useless garbage. Not to say we need to go into our “critique” guns-a-blazin', throwing out shade and hate at every new mono-line weight icons. We can collectively take a moment and think about why we enjoy this thing we see. We can give positive and pointed feedback so the creator knows what is working. We can tactfully ask questions when something seems off or we are confused about a concept.
As creators, we can give context to our work and forego the “I made this. Mic drop.” copout nonsense (also, guilty of this). Give the people an opportunity to provide valuable feedback.
With such influence, it is the responsibility of Dribbble to push a system which breeds rich interaction and breaks superficiality. In turn, it is the responsibility of its community to see how the current system lacks true value and ask for more.
Now… I’m gonna go check my Dribbble real quick.
Thanks to my lovely wife Alyssa for the edits.