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Does social beat search, or does “peacocking” get in the way?

Most people want to share content that makes them look good — a concept that Gravity CEO Amit Kapur called “peacocking” at paidContent 2012 this afternoon. Sometimes that urge is a good thing, but sometimes it gets in the way of delivering a truly personalized online experience

People may be very interested in Britney Spears pictures but they don’t necessarily want to share celeb posts on their Facebook (s fb) news feed, Kapur said. To give users a truly personalized online experience, he says, “you need a personal identity attached to the user that’s not about sharing or social.”

Moderator Michael Wolf, VP of GigaOM Pro, mentioned “My Yahoo, maybe one of the last good things Yahoo (s yhoo) did.” It allowed users to create personalized homepages, but Valla Vakili of Small Demons says users had to do too much “setup work” to personalize their pages. “The hardcore base did, but a lot of people didn’t,” he said.┬áSo Kapur says it’s key to “dynamically build that kind of experience.”

Jonah Peretti, founder and CEO of Buzzfeed, says “social bias” can be a good things sometimes, especially in the transition from a search-centric Web to a social-centric Web. “Search was ‘nude ScarJo pics,'” he said. “People aren’t going to say on Facebook, ‘I heard there were some nude photos of Scarlett Johansson and I have some time this weekend, can somebody share those?” Search “doesn’t appeal to our better selves.” And people search for topics that are “boring but useful.” But “on Facebook you’re much more likely to post something like ‘join me to help the people of Japan after the tsunami.'”

“I like social bias,” he said, “because I think it leads to content that you actually like to talk about around the dinner table, or with other people in your life. That’s the stuff that’s most interesting to talk about.”

Check out the rest of our coverage of paidContent 2012. Full archived video on livestream (registration required).