It’s all over. Facebook is in decline, while Twitter is in disarray. With its ad business in jeopardy and its metaverse dream in jeopardy, Mark Zuckerberg’s enterprise has lost hundreds of billions of dollars in worth and laid off 11,000 workers. Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter has forced advertisers to withdraw their money and power users to abandon the network (or at least to tweet a lot about doing so). It’s never felt more likely that the age of social media is coming to an end—and soon.
Now that we’ve washed up on this unexpected beach, we can see the shipwreck that brought us here with new eyes. Maybe we can find some solace: Although it became second nature, social media was never a natural way to work, play, or interact. The practice progressed through a strange mutation, one that was so subtle that it was impossible to notice at the moment.
The beginning of social media platforms
The transition began some 20 years ago when networked computers became common enough that individuals began utilizing them to develop and maintain connections. Social networking has flaws, such as gathering friends rather than being nice to them, but these were minor in comparison to what came after. Around the end of the aughts, social media gradually and quietly took its place. The alteration was nearly imperceptible, yet it had far-reaching repercussions. Instead of encouraging the limited use of existing relationships—mostly for offline purposes (such as organizing a birthday party), social software converted the ties into a dormant broadcast channel. Millions of individuals regarded themselves as celebrities, experts, and tastemakers all at once.
Broadcast networks – the concept of social media platforms
A worldwide broadcast network in which everyone may say anything to anyone else as often as possible, and if such individuals have grown to believe that they deserve such a capability, or that withholding it amounts to censorship or suppression—just that’s a bad notion from the start. And it’s a bad idea that is inextricably linked to the concept of social media itself: technologies built and utilized just to produce an infinite stream of material.
However, it may now come to an end. The potential demise of Facebook and Twitter (and others) is an opportunity—not to migrate to another platform, but to welcome their demise, which was previously impossible.
Many social networks walked the Earth a long time ago. Six Degrees debuted in 1997, titled after a Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about a psychological experiment. It closed soon after the dot-com crisis of 2000 because the world wasn’t ready. Friendster sprang from the ashes in 2002, followed by MySpace and LinkedIn the following year, then Hi5 and Facebook in 2004, the latter for students at chosen schools and institutions. Orkut, created and maintained by Google, also debuted that year. Bebo debuted in 2005, and it would eventually be owned by both AOL and Amazon. Google Buzz and Google+ were born, only to die. You’ve probably never heard of any of these, yet many of these services were quite popular before Facebook.
Content sharing platforms
Content-sharing platforms also functioned as de facto social networks, allowing users to access information posted mostly by people they knew or knew about, rather than by people from all over the world. Flickr, the photo-sharing service, was one; YouTube, which was formerly thought of as Flickr for video, was another. Blogs (and blog-type sites like Tumblr) raced alongside them, hosting “musings” seen and participated with by a small number of people. Geert Lovink, a Dutch media theorist, wrote a book about blogs and social networks in 2008, with the title summarizing their typical reach: There are no comments.
Today, people refer to all of these sites and more as “social media,” a phrase that has lost its meaning. However, the such word did not exist two decades ago. Many of these sites positioned themselves as part of a “web 2.0” revolution in “user-generated content,” providing simple, easy-to-use tools on websites and eventually mobile applications. They were designed for the creation and distribution of “content,” a phrase that formerly meant “satisfied” when spoken differently. However, at the time, and for many years afterward, these offers were characterized as social networks or, more commonly, social-network services. As the number of SNSs increased, a parody acronym arose: YASN, or “yet another social network.” These items were like dandelions in the springtime.
The true meaning of social media or social networks
As the name implies, social networking is about connecting rather than broadcasting. You might surface a bigger network of trustworthy connections by linking your network of trusted contacts (or “strong ties,” as sociologists term them) to the networks of others (via “weak ties”). LinkedIn claimed to make job hunting and business networking easier by utilizing your connections’ connections. Friendster did it for personal connections, Facebook did it for college friends, and so on. The main point of social networks was to network: to develop or enhance relationships, mostly with individuals you knew. The users were essentially left to decide how and why that deepening occurred.
The main source is by Ian Bogost
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