Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Social Media Is No Longer a Safe Place

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Social Media Is No Longer a Safe Place

Article excerpt

There are now 1.79 billion people on Facebook. There are 320 million on Twitter. There are 400 million on Instagram.

We think these social media juggernauts will keep going, swallowing eyeballs and minds, country by country, until they run out of victims. The idea that 2 billion Facebook users would leave the service is ridiculous, right?

Wrong.

There is a slow but heavy backlash brewing against all social media on multiple fronts. Social media hurts us. Researchers at the University of Delaware discovered that social media can increase social anxiety and depression. Regular users are finding that the all-knowing algorithms used by Twitter and Facebook are hiding important news and, as evidenced by recent political changes, they make it easy to go down a rabbit hole of one's own opinion.

Publishers and journalists are also finding out that Facebook and Twitter are awful ways to spread news and important work. The social media updraft after posting something particularly interesting is limited and fades quickly. A few thousand retweets or shares may seem great, but converting those to actual readers or turning the Tweets and comments into actual discussion is far more difficult if not impossible.

I believe we are entering a Third Age of sharing. The first age, the Newlywed Age, as it were, brought the first chat rooms and webcams. Sites like Jennicam and Julie & Julia allowed writers to bare their souls to faceless audiences and result was a wave of emotional and highly personal content that led to services like Tumblr and Wordpress. This era is characterized by users baring it all at all costs. It was expository and kind of kinky.

Fast forward a few years and the first social networks grew out of these high-bandwidth services. Myspace and Friendster were popular and, thanks to tech-sawy students, Facebook and Twitter rose to prominence. Why did they grow? Because they were easy to use and they didn't cost much time or money to create. Vine and Instagram grew popular because you didn't need a film crew or nice camera to become a visual artist. Facebook is social shorthand, allowing you to create an online personality out of a few cryptic comments.

This era, the Social Era, brought about an ethos of quick, dirty, and careless. …

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