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Blog // Thoughts
December 4, 2014

Is Social Media Dying?

A few years ago, there were the odd dissenters from Facebook’s seemingly relentless take over of the internet. Some were simply not won over by the social media giant’s “charms” while others like myself, saw more negatives than positives in the platform. Now the dissent is growing fast. Rather than the odd person here and […]

Old Social Media
A few years ago, there were the odd dissenters from Facebook’s seemingly relentless take over of the internet. Some were simply not won over by the social media giant’s “charms” while others like myself, saw more negatives than positives in the platform.

Now the dissent is growing fast. Rather than the odd person here and there leaving (or contemplating it) there seems to be a daily stream of folks questioning the value of what was once, not that long ago, the unrivalled mecca of the internet.

Social Media Is Bullshit

I’ve been reading B.J. Mendelson’s Social Media Is Bullshit, which despite the contrarian title, is actually a helpful corrective to much of the Social Media boosterism around today (and to which I’m sometimes prone to as well). One of the book’s great strengths is putting the rise of social media in a border context of the history of the internet. Commentators are quick these days to suggest user-generated content is somehow a new phenomenon. But, actually, the internet, pre-2000 was almost exclusively user-generated content, from GeoCities to early web pages and then blogs, the internet was a vast, often anarchic realm of individuality.

The Rise Of Social Messaging

Social Media has been under assault from within and without. Changes to Facebook and Twitter’s way of showing updates has frustrated many users. And the rise of social messaging platforms like WeChat, What’s App, Line and Wire are disrupting small group sharing and conversation.

One of Twitter’s under-appreciated charms is the way @-replies allow for a kind of semi-private, yet open-ended conversation. You can watch people talking and add your thoughts to the dialogue. It replicates a real world dynamic we are used to from meetings and social functions.

But, over the last year or two a lot of that kind of activity has shifted to group chats on social messaging platforms. These can fulfil the same function for those who initiate the chat, but they are less accessible to those who were not invited to the start of the conversation, or of course, to strangers.

This narrowing seems to taking users away from social media in a manner not unlike the way social media robbing blogging of a lot of its steam and personality.

Death Precedes Evolution

What is dying is not so much the platforms themselves: Facebook, Twitter and the like are not yet at a MySpace-like edge of oblivion. What is dying is the idea of social media, the notion of addressing vast numbers of people around the world in a way that’s simultaneously both personal and mimicking mass-communication.

This is probably going to make harder for anyone trying to grow a presence on platforms like Twitter. I’m not sure the way I started to grow my following, by participating in lots of open, online discussions with others living in my then home city, Hong Kong, is possible now. That just doesn’t get anyone in front of enough potential new followers like it did.

It seems this frustration with Social Media is pushing some creatives to get smarter about the blogs and mailing lists, trying to build a deeper and more meaningful connection with the followers they have and hoping to attract new followers by offering something unique and helpful. I’m inclined to think this is a good trend.

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