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The Future of Social Media Will Be Much Less Social

The future of social media is expected to be less focused on traditional notions of socializing and more centred around connecting users with brands and influencers. Scroll down to read more.

Platforms like Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter have increasingly become avenues for promoting products and professional content, overshadowing personal updates and interactions among friends and family. As a result, some users are turning to smaller social networks to regain a sense of community.

In the early days, platforms like Facebook emerged as a means for college students to stay connected. Twitter followed, with users sharing mundane details of their lives, while Instagram became a space for friends to share photos and stay updated. However, the landscape has evolved, and the feeds of major social media platforms are now filled with advertisements and sponsored posts.

TikTok and Snapchat are flooded with influencer-driven videos endorsing various products, and Twitter is moving toward a model where subscribers pay for visibility and perks.

This shift towards a less social environment on social media platforms has significant implications for companies and how people engage with each other online. The concept of a centralized platform, where users spend most of their time, is being challenged as the focus has shifted to connecting users with brands and professional content. In response, some users seek community-oriented platforms and apps catering to specific interests and hobbies.

The notion of “platforms,” as we once knew them, is being called into question. Zizi Papacharissi, a communications professor, argues that traditional platforms have yet to improve their usefulness. This shift has prompted large social networking companies to explore new business avenues. For example, Twitter is encouraging people and brands to become subscribers, while Meta (the parent company of Facebook and Instagram) is venturing into the immersive online realm of the metaverse.

This trend means that users are now diversifying their social media presence across multiple smaller, niche networks instead of relying on one or a few major platforms. These smaller networks, such as Mastodon (similar to Twitter) and Nextdoor (a neighbourhood-oriented social network), cater to specific communities and interests. Additionally, there are platforms like Truth Social, which was started by former President Donald J. Trump and is seen as a social network for conservatives.

According to Mr. Zuckerman, a professor of public policy, the future of social media lies in being a member of multiple communities. Rather than subscribing to the Silicon Valley notion of one network ruling them all, users seek out various communities to satisfy their diverse interests and needs.

Some key figures in social media, such as Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, have predicted this shift toward smaller networks. They have highlighted the growing popularity of private messaging and small groups as the fastest-growing areas of online communication.

Must read: The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health.

The Future of Social Media Will Be Much Less Social

Technologists and academics have also focused on smaller networks, advocating for companies to run low-cost, specialized networks. They propose the creation of an app that allows users to switch seamlessly between different sites, including Twitter, Mastodon, Reddit, and smaller networks. Gobo, an app developed by MIT Media Lab and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is set to be released next month.

Discovering these newer, smaller networks can be challenging as they are often less well-known. However, more extensive social networks like Mastodon or Reddit can serve as gateways to these smaller communities. Mastodon, for example, offers users the option to choose a server based on their interests, whether gaming, food, or activism.

Smaller networks provide benefits such as creating forums for specific communities and marginalized groups. Ahwaa, a social network for the LGBTQ+ community in countries where homosexuality is illegal, and Letterboxd, an app for film enthusiasts to share opinions, are examples of platforms catering to special interests.

Moreover, smaller communities can alleviate some of the social pressures associated with mainstream society.

 Media, particularly for younger users. Stories have emerged about the negative impact of social media on teenagers’ mental health, such as developing eating disorders due to striving for “Instagram-perfect” appearances or feeling overwhelmed by TikTok videos.

Experts agree that expecting a single social media site to cater to everyone’s needs is unrealistic. Young users are more likely to experiment with different platforms, quickly moving on to the next one when they lose interest.

Therefore, the future of social media will likely involve fragmented online identities across multiple sites, each serving a specific purpose. LinkedIn may be used for professional achievements, Discord for gaming communities, and Artifact for discussing news stories.

This shift towards smaller networks is expected to continue, with initiatives like Harvard University’s research program focused on rebooting social media. The program encourages the creation and experimentation of new networks. One such app, Minus, emerged from this program, limiting users to 100 posts on their timeline for life. This concept aims to foster a sense of connection within an environment where time spent together is seen as a precious and finite resource, in contrast to the infinite scrolling interfaces of traditional social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

The future of social media will likely see a decline in the traditional socializing aspect, with a stronger emphasis on connecting users with brands and influencers. Users are turning to smaller, specialized networks to reclaim a sense of community.

The concept of a centralized platform is being challenged, and people are increasingly seeking out multiple networks that cater to their diverse interests. This shift presents challenges and opportunities for developing new platforms that foster more meaningful connections and support specific communities.

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