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MindShare: Social Media Is Dead, Long Live Social Media

By Carlos Tribino, The Machine

Mindshare TEQ MagazineSocial Media is far from over!

With 54% of the entire globe logging daily into any one or more social media platforms and a global ad spending of a staggering $266 billion, social media is alive and kicking. But just as Meta’s meteoric Threads platform climbed to a record 100 million users in less than a week and plummeted to less than 10 million in less than a month, social media better change its game if it wants to stay useful, relevant, and as of recent, within the law.

This past October dozens of states sued Meta (parent of Facebook and Instagram) for knowingly pushing addictive features on its platforms and damaging young users’ mental well-being. Among some of the accusations are “…designed psychologically manipulative product features to induce young users’ compulsive and extended use,” “designed to push children and teenagers into rabbit holes of toxic and harmful content,” and “harnessed powerful and unprecedented technologies to entice, engage and ultimately ensnare youth and teens.” 

A colleague of mine and I recently conducted more than 20 interviews with people from all age groups and all but one considered social media has serious issues and is a social issue in itself. The range of social media issues ranges from the mundane to the life threatening, allegedly including a rich variety of negative outcomes including bullying, low self-esteem, depression, fake news, misinformation, extortion and yes even suicide. 

A recent New York Times article further refers to a Maryland teenager’s adventures in social media… “She is constantly confronted with images of people who somehow seem prettier, richer, more fashionable and more popular. Sometimes, she stumbles on truly disturbing videos, like one claiming to show a woman flushing her baby down a toilet. Above all, social media takes the normal anxieties of teenage life and hypercharges them.” 

X, yes the platform formerly known as Twitter, continues to implode since Elon Musk’s acquisition. Even loyal high-profile users like celebrities and politicians are abandoning the platform and even journalists, whose daily routine would often begin with a navigation through X, have turned away from the platform claiming there’s nothing but irrelevant infomercial-like ad content and trash talking. 

Social media was supposedly born to keep people connected and to reconnect people that had disconnected somewhere along their lives. I have gladly reconnected with childhood, high school and college friends and former work colleagues from three continents with whom I would have never reconnected were it not for social media. And I’m thankful for that. But the platforms and social etiquette have evolved into a wannabe exhibitionism, exaggeration, pretense, showing off, misinformation and cyberbullying. The algorithms encourage people to interact more with the actual platform than with their friends, family and/or followers. It’s become all about the media and very little about the social. As Marshall McLuhan used to say, “the medium is the message,” and in today’s reality that has very negative consequences.

Yet nothing on the horizon indicates that social media will go away. To the contrary, our smartphones, tablets, wearables and IoT devices will promote social media usage and integration even further in the future. 

Conceptually, social media is not bad per se, but it has been developed in ways that promote negative and destructive behavior. It needs to change. Change to a healthy environment. One of support, empathy, transparency, openness, tolerance and care. One that leverages different points of view to add richness to the discussion, not to feed the hatred in an echo chamber. One that allows us to acknowledge and get in touch with our feelings – both positive and negative – and exchange them constructively with others. One without bots. One that leverages technology to connect us in a positive framework to bring the best versions of ourselves. Here’s hoping for a new era… Social media is dead, long live social media!