Social media has been a major part of our world for a while now. Before Facebook came to the foreground there were chatrooms (do you remember those?), Bebo, and Myspace. Social media was young and exciting, then 14 years ago Facebook took the world by storm
(I’m not sure if I should express surprise that it has been around that long or shock that it has survived when the others faded into obscurity). The fact that it has survived for 14 years in an environment so vulnerable to fads, disruptive technologies, and social media backlash uprisings for the smallest perceived slights, makes Facebooks 14 years of social media domination quite an accomplishment. And I think, the longevity has created a common belief that it now has an impenetrable market position. But how impenetrable is it really, could Facebook one day be replaced as the worlds dominant social media site?
There certainly has been some attempts to replace it. Google plus comes to mind. Other offerings like twitter have apparently carved out a particular niche. I personally have never found myself interested in pursuing Twitter, my personal opinion is it is overused by a lot of individuals whose sole purpose behind every tweet is to build some façade of fame. I think Twitter may have had some value, but, that value has been squandered by the stampede of narcissists that found it the ideal platform for exercising their illusions of grandeur. But, if you just consider the overwhelming number of social media platforms now available, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube… It quickly becomes apparent that if you do not exercise some level of personal discipline you could quickly run the risk of wasting your days to maintenance of a plethora of social media sites, most of which are unlikely to return any value to you in your own life.
Over time we have seen social media increasingly become a vacuum which continues to feed on your preconceived notions. This has become really apparent lately in regards to news, and what is facts, fake news, and/or alternative facts. As ridiculous as alternative facts sounds, history does demonstrate that most “news” has been driven by the propaganda of the most dominant power at a given time. This is why the facts of history are so vulnerable to change, and often the facts of history do have to be changed when emerging evidence is so indisputable that to not change what we believed “truth” would simply be untenable. However, with history we are usually dealing with a distant past with no known survivors with vested interests either in the positive or negative. But, with currently news cycles this is not the case. There are plenty of people that have all manner of personal interests that can potentially win or lose based on what the majority believe are the factual facts, and what is fake news or alternative facts.
What we have learned is that personal benefits can accrue from influencing the beliefs of others, and that the outcomes of this influence can have all manner of consequences. the acceptance of one worldview as ones own won’t necessarily benefit those that buy into the propaganda, which is the whole point of circumnavigating peoples ability to think critically about the messages by a process of subtle changes in understanding of the issue over a long length of time, so that the victim is never even aware that they have had their beliefs and understanding of the world reprogrammed. If anyone remembers the stories of subliminal messaging and all the accompanying controversy, I think that what has occurred through social media is a good example of subliminal messaging, in a different guise – the aim however, remains the same.
Our addictedness to social media has left us vulnerable to guided into specific belief systems as a result of the big data we were happily providing about ourselves. For so long we were worried about our personal information being gathered for the purposes of identity fraud, online scams, and other scams. However, while we guarded our bank accounts and social security numbers, we freely gave away our belief systems, our values, fears, concerns, and morals inclinations. Allowing ourselves to be profiled and fed specific information so that malicious agents could reshape our beliefs, values, and opinions into something that were not our own. It all seems to much like a crazy conspiracy theory to be true, except for – well Cambridge Analytica. What they, and others like them have done is so despicable it is beyond mere words. There is a certain sense of Facebook betraying its consumers via Cambridge Analytical intentional or otherwise is irrelevant, they let us all down by not taking greater care with the metadata their business was amassing.
These companies like Cambridge Analytica have been complicit in undermining free will. Through the vehicle that Facebook provided, they have created an environment where people cannot say with a high degree of certainty that what they believe to be real has not been manipulated. The thing about the indoctrinated is they don’t see that they have been indoctrinated. I don’t know about others, but, this has all led me to rethink what my position on various issues are. However, I am able to do this with the hindsight of a pre-social media fed view of the world, based on research of global issues. Not everyone of course has this advantage. What of those people that have lived their entire lives in the muddied waters of truth? Is it any wonder that we have returned to such debates as the shape of the planet?
For many people who have been indoctrinated into a belief system which was not their own, getting them to recognize that they were manipulated would be every bit as much of a challenge as freeing those caught up in religious cults. And getting some balanced information is really REALLY hard. You just look at the whole Trump saga to understand what I am saying here. Whether you support Trump or not, surely everyone can agree that the one thing journalists rarely do is deliver the facts. Both sides use some facts to push forward their particular spin on the administration. And neither side of the audience has shown any ability to accept that their is any bias present in the news that they personally follow. As an outsider, I have to say, I see them both as different sides of the same coin. Both sides of this media storm most certainly do not want their viewers looking at the bigger picture.
This brings me back to the topic. Has Facebook’s position at the dead centre of this debacle brought about its imminent demise? Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal was made public and people began to grapple with the knowledge of the full of the way in which our metadata was being used against ourselves, in a war – waged against our own worldviews. The purpose, to indoctrinate us into the worldview of those who stood to profit from what could be called the greatest marketing campaign in world history. Facebook has become BORING!! Suddenly I see less and less of people sharing tidbits of their lives to friends, and more advertising. Much of the advertising done by associates recruited to be influences – thanks Facebook for this by the way.
Thanks to influencing, when we go to Facebook to connect to our friends, we discover they have been brought by marketers and they are no longer catching up with us, but, using their unique position as our friend to sell us junk we really don’t want! Way to undermine your friendships. I don’t know if anyone else has noticed that seeing genuine posts from actual friends (the ones you actually know in the real world) has become increasingly rare. Facebook is awash in memes (which are admittedly entertaining and one of the few things of value that is still on offer), influencers, advertisements, and news stories (which are normally opinion pieces portrayed as news). Where I use to regularly check my Facebook page, I can go days without bothering with it. It seems that their algorithms have been manipulated to prevent me from participated in the very stuff that prompted me to sign up in the first place. Yet, so far no clear replacement has emerged.
For this reason I am starting to wonder if social media as it had been known for the past 14 years is in its final days. I occasionally use Instagram, although more as a personal photo album than a sharing platform. Few people I am friends with appear to still be using Facebook for anything other than spreading memes which make them giggle. But, the strongest evidence of all that leads me to believe the golden age of social media as we know it is nearing the end is the kids.
Todays children are growing up in fully immersed in this high tech world, every aspect of their lives are drenched in IT. To these kids the internet and technology are as much of a novelty as yoghurt is to Greeks. When I watch todays kids interact with technology they don’t do so with the excitement that a novelty brings, they do so with purpose. If technology does not provide something to them, they move on to something that does. From this perspective I do not think many of these kids will be signing up for Facebook pages. It seems that for the kids social media is less likely to be a standalone platform than a companion to the other applications they use – The games communities for example. It is for this reason that I am increasingly beginning to think the future lies within the emergence of social media platforms with a purpose, and social media behemoths for the sake of it will increasingly become a thing of the past.