Meerkat, social media overpopulation and burst bubbles?
Too much of what you enjoy isn’t always a good thing. Tempting as it is can be to indulge.
Here at Smoking Gun PR there’s no denying we love social media, and all that comes with it. But we also can’t help but feel as though there might be a change in the direction of the tide that has been flowing since the earliest days of these platforms.
Don’t believe us? Let’s look at the evidence.
Facebook’s new user numbers in key regions like continental Europe, the UK and US have been in steady decline for some time now. Twitter has pretty much flatlined and doesn’t seem capable of making enough money to keep itself properly afloat; hence so many changes being introduced, toyed with and mused upon.
Earlier this month, Meerkat, the live streaming network, announced it would cease broadcasts, adding yet more evidence to the notion that, whilst social media will never die and is destined to remain a vital tool for spreading information, we may have reached the peak in terms of the pace of new launches. Where once the number of networks arriving was so overwhelming our blog struggled to keep up with them all, now there’s a tangible sense that over-saturation has become an issue. The cramped market is buckling as people struggle to find enough time to check all their pages, profiles and handles, let alone keep them updated with interesting posts.
Where from here, then? There was an interesting comment made on Radio 4 last week, suggesting that social media is like a human brain- an analogy that seems logical given they were discussing a visual map of user communication that traced lines between one person and the person they were in conversation with, resulting in a picture of the world connected by countless lines, thus resembling the nervous system.
Continuing with the same thought thread, social media, according to the discussion, is a human brain now in late infancy. It still has long to go before reaching full maturity, and what it will look like in adulthood is really anyone’s guess. That said, those involved in the programme hoped it would look like the ultimate democratic platform- a place where serious conversations happen, movements begin and change is catalysed.
The Arab Spring is an obvious reference point. Many of the dictatorships that crumbled during those months were brought down thanks to mobilisation and organisation aided in no small part by social media. Perhaps it would have happened anyway, although those responsible for inciting the various revolutions would likely have found it more difficult to do so without such tools of communication at their disposal.
Conversely, though, the idea of a truly democratic platform is actually becoming less likely in the modern situation. Everything from Facebook to Twitter is increasingly putting pressure on users to pay in order to have their content seen by as many as possible. A true democracy does not prefer the thoughts, words, pictures and work of those with money to those without, it places everyone on an equal footing.
The point being that the current platforms are, for now at least, incapable of truly advancing the concept of social media beyond this ‘infancy’. In order for that to happen we could well need something new to come along, something that answers the many problems that have emerged from the networks that already exist, something that functions in a very different way. We’re keeping our eyes peeled, but probably won’t be holding our breath.