Is Social Media Dying? A Peek into the Future

Is social media dying? There are indications that Facebook may have peaked in popularity despite more than two-billion active users worldwide. Scores of next-generation Internet users are increasingly abandoning the social media platform.

According to a Pew Survey, Facebook’s user-base in the US largely remained stagnant at around 68% from 2016 to 2018. Negative publicity due to confrontations with GDPR in Europe and the Cambridge Analytica scandal may have also contributed to declining numbers.

The bigger question is whether the lack of engagement is limited to Facebook alone or impacting all social media channels equally. YouTube recently made an announcement that its userbase is increasing twice as fast as Facebook. The engagement levels are certainly showing no signs of abatement because many of us do spend hours watching YouTube videos.

Brand fatigue, lack of trust, privacy issues, the rise of fake news and bot-driven influencers, and too many marketers competing for eyeballs are the biggest frustrations about social media. Many believe that this is a transitory phase. In the future, social media companies will simply evolve thanks to live streaming and greater content personalization.

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However, it seems extremely likely that in the light of “14 Eyes”-like surveillance programs, people will start valuing their privacy even more. This means less desire to share updates or content via public feeds. Users may feel that deleting one’s social media accounts could be more attractive than agreeing to obtrusive terms and conditions.

Recently, JD Wetherspoon, a UK-based pub chain with over 900 outlets, decided to delete their corporate Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. According to Tim Martin, the founder and Chairman of JD Wetherspoon, they simply got “fed up” with social media. What would it take for others to be pushed to the brink and call it quits?

Some of the pet peeves of present forms of social media include:

Advertisers with massive social media presence already complain about this collective phenomenon of unrest. Less than 1 out of 50 followers of a company page on Twitter or Facebook engage with their posts. Subscribers no longer fancy being trolled for attention every waking moment.

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Instead of click-bait, people are looking for truthful content that helps them directly engage with their peers and social groups. Twitter recently banned bulk posting because of numerous complaints.

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Many would agree that the online world has become a lot less happier with narcissistic people filling the most popular news sites. The current engagement model of social media allowing for unfiltered opinions has made it a fertile ground for angry rants and pointless debates. If what people cannot say in the real world out of politeness, can be said on social media in just a matter of a few angry exchanges, in the dust-up of cyberspace, all seems to be forgiven.

If only there were social media engagement models that rewarded good behavior, and reined in our worst instincts, as in the real world. Now, that is a business idea someone should take on.

So, what does the future hold? We do not know for sure.

A few trends, however, look certain. AR/VR, artificial intelligence, voice-driven applications like Alexa, machine-learning and Internet of Things will make the Internet visible in every aspect of our lives rather than be restricted to one device at a time. This has interesting ramifications. While none of us would stop checking emails and news updates online, the mediums which advertisers use to reach us will change greatly.

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For example, if you’re a media company, your readers will have less and less patience with unrelated and irrelevant content. They can tweak their news update settings to filter unwanted noise. This means account-based marketing initiatives will have more pull factor than mass advertising.

Social media, in its traditional sense of sharing unfiltered posts and opinions, may have already reached its saturation point. A course correction seems inevitable in that the very concept of social media might evolve into something else.  This could mean a new era of hyper-connectivity where social media merges with the emerging technologies of future. The social media companies would no longer be able to get away with what they have so far. They will increasingly have to play by the rules of abuse control, data protection and privacy requirements.

7 comments

  1. Just because FB has peaked in popularity does not indicate the demise of social media. It just means people have gotten sick and tired of FB’s BS. Also many next-generation Internet users are moving to other sites.

    “Ad Desensitization”
    Did the ad purveyors think that their audience will forever remain mindless?

    ” people are looking for truthful content”
    No. People are looking for content they agree with. “Fake news and misinformation” is any content you do not agree with. If you are a Democrat and/or a feminist, you believe that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Christine Ford. If your beliefs are right of center, you believe that Brett Kavanaugh is innocent and the accusations are a smear tactic. To each group the other group’s beliefs are Fake News and Misrepresentations.

    “The Road Ahead”
    Social media will become more pervasive and invasive.

    • “No. People are looking for content they agree with. “Fake news and misinformation” is any content you do not agree with”

      It is “truthful” in comparison to clickbait statements and sweeping generalizations which are the real problems. I swear Internet wasn’t so full of exaggerated statements even 12 years before. Going further back, I remember the late 90s as a high school student doing class projects when I was able to TRUST most things I read online.

      Of course, the very concept of fake news and misinformation is subjective. There was no such concept called “fake news” until a few years ago. If something was found factually untrue on the Internet, it would immediately be abandoned. Today it goes viral and you are supposed to examine both sides of the claim.

      • “There was no such concept called “fake news” until a few years ago.”
        The concept of “fake news” was invented by the Democrat and Republican campaigns in 2016. However, fake news itself has existed for hundreds, if no thousands, of years. If you look at history objectively, you will see that most events have been and are driven by fake news. Advertising is based on fake news and misinformation.

        “I remember the late 90s as a high school student doing class projects when I was able to TRUST most things I read online.”
        When we’re young we tend to trust more. As we get older, through daily experience, we develop better BS filters. We become more discerning.

  2. I can’t begin to tell you how much I loathe the internet of banners, popups and other shite they throw at you on a webpage. Social media started out as a safe haven, but soon the rot set in there too. Big time.
    I hardly access my accounts these days.
    A plea to all those marketeers out there: please-leave-me-alone!

    • “A plea to all those marketeers out there: please-leave-me-alone!”
      Not about to happen! Noway, nohow. They are making too much money.

      If you want to slow them down, use an ad blocker – uBlock Origin or AdBlock Plus. Or better yet, use your hosts file.
      Check out the following for hosts files that will help you block much of the ads on the ‘Net:
      http://remember.mine.nu/
      http://someonewhocares.org/hosts/#top

  3. Hello. I am an IT professional and have worked with corporate and personal internet security. While Facebook, Twitter, and others have received bad publicity because of news media outlets, what I have observed with the average social media user is that most are oblivious to issues with social media security unless it affects them directly.

    While raising good questions about privacy concerns and their effect on social media usage, the article treats suppositions as if they are truth in statements such as “However, it *seems* extremely likely…”. Another such statement is “Negative publicity…*may* have also contributed to declining numbers…”. The article goes on to make statements based on those suppositions.

    While it would *seem* reasonable, there are other reasons that need to be accounted for other than people’s concern about privacy. My children have gone to other platforms *not* because of privacy concerns or advertising but because of the content and content delivery method that the new platform provides. While my children do not represent the whole, it does raise the question of the possibility of other significant factors.

    My point is that there needs to be some empirical data to show the causes of these effects rather than just going on what *seems* to be a good explanation. I have made that mistake myself in the past.

    • While I agree with what you are saying, I also realize that it is impossible to determine accurately the reasons social media is “dying”. The statements in the article are based on trends and statistics and as has been said many times “there are three kinds of lies – lies, damned lies and statistics”. To determine the exact causes, ALL social media users would have to be interviewed, a physical impossibility. So a statistical sample is taken. However, how statistically significant is a sample of 1,000, 10,000 or even 100,000 when the whole group amounts to billions? Also, any poll can be shaped by WHAT questions are asked and HOW those questions are asked. In light of that, all we can hope for is approximations, guesses and projections.

      “My children have gone to other platforms ………”
      Another reason the young are moving to newer platforms is that the older platforms have become “infested” with too many older folk.The young ones want to have sites and platforms of their own and not have to share them with their parents

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