Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Social media networks are becoming more like real life, not less

This week there's been a higher than normal amount of discussion around to the topic of 'the death of social media', well, there has been on my social media networks. And that links to what I want to talk about in this post.

The Atlantic published a piece yesterday on 'The Decay of Twitter' which followed the announcement that Twitter was running at a financial loss. Today, Essena O'Neill announced that she is quitting Instagram because social media 'isn't real life'.  I've found the discussions around both of these really interesting but many discussions about social media often assume a couple of points that I think should be thought about further and these haven't really been addressed in commentary that I have seen.

1) Everyone should be using the same social network

Obviously for a social network to be a social network it needs users and for business (like Twitter) additional users is a sign that they are doing well. But as a user of a network does more users mean that it is a better network to use? Many people use multiple networks because they offer different functionality. Some people like images, others like reading or connecting with videos and this need can shift depending on what content people are looking to find.

2) Everyone uses social media networks in the same way

The Essena O'Neill story made me think more about how people use networks. Not everyone uses social media to broadcast their perfect life or to broadcast at all. Members of patient and other support groups use social media to communicate and help each other. People going through difficult periods of their life use social media to connect. Other use social media to communicate with friends, family and with others with shared interests like sport, or science. Not all Instagram accounts exist to promote unachievable beauty goals, some exist to inspire curiosity in science and to share moments of real life.

3) The way we use social media changes and that's natural

As we age, change jobs, location, interests and friendship groups the way we interact online with others changes to reflect this. It's natural really, so is it newsworthy?

The problem is that as in our 'offline life',  our online life is dominated by information from sources we choose to visit or recommendations from friends and connections. There's an increasingly diverse set of social networks, tools and functions and these open up the what we interact with or what we read in news and commentary but these are limited by who we choose to connect with. Because of this we see a skewed view of the overall picture.

Social media is certainly not dying a death. The number of people interacting on social networks is growing but the field is diversifying and becoming more reflective of different interests and ways people prefer to connect to each other. For me, I love soaking up information from different accounts and hearing from people I wouldn't be able to connect without social media. Far from consuming everything social media is valuable and offers a great amount of opportunity to explore, learn and connect.



Just a note...

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