For quite some time I have admitted I suffer from social media fatigue. When large groups of people and businesses are congregated into one area there is only so much a person can handle. While some people love getting attention through Facebook and Instagram likes there are others that realize there is truly no point. In 2015, I firmly believe we will start to see more Facebook, Twitter and Instagram users flock to private social networks that allow users to avoid “public” updates. We will eventually come full circle and go back to sharing information and photos to those we know in real life (IRL).
In this article I will go over the history of social media in the last decade. You will quickly see how the Facebook Like changed the way users engaged on social platforms. You will also understand how it is easy to become fatigued with too much interaction and engagement. Without further ado…
The Growth of MySpace and Facebook
In 2003 MySpace was launched as a place where Internet users could create their space. It was a virtual dorm room or bedroom in which users could choose their own wallpaper, music and photos. It was the first major attempt at getting the younger audience to create their own website and personal space online. Remember that blogging was not popular at this time. In fact, it was extremely difficult to create a website that was easily updated. MySpace filled the void and became extremely popular.
One of the main reasons MySpace started to lose momentum was the fact that it was open to anyone with an email address. While young girls and boys loved MySpace they were often creeped out by the fact that a 55 year old man could privately message them and post on their wall. There was no exclusivity to MySpace and this caused the younger audience to run. MySpace offered users an opportunity to create a private account but it was still the case that they had to deal with randos requesting to be friends.
MySpace was the first social website in which users wanted a large number of friends. I think we can all remember how many friends “Tom” had. It also introduced the idea of best friends which still causes drama online to this day. Today it is Snapchat, Instagram and other social platforms. We have Tom to thank for the “follow me” mentality of the younger users on social media. Thanks Tom!
While MySpace was reaching its peak there was a small social network called The Facebook that was just getting started. While The Facebook started in 2004 it really took until mid to late 2005 for The Facebook to spread to all major universities. Those that were online around this time can remember college students begging for The Facebook to offer the service for their particular .edu email address. What made Facebook so very popular was the exclusivity of the website. You could not sign up for The Facebook unless you had a .edu email address from a university that was part of The Facebook network.
I can clearly remember high school students begging their older brothers and sisters for their email address so they could make a Facebook page. This exclusivity made The Facebook what it is today. College students were comfortable sharing everything from phone numbers to the party they were attending on Saturday night. If an Internet website or social network can create a comfort level for a younger audience, especially females, there is a good chance it is going to be extremely popular. I remember female friends of mine posting their phone numbers for all students to see. I think it is safe to say they learned their lesson quickly.
With The Facebook being exclusive to college students it was all in due time before students ran away from MySpace and flocked to The Facebook. It was where all the cool kids were hanging out. At the time, you could only post a status update. There were no businesses, no newsfeed, no advertisements and definitely no moms, dads and grandparents. This was an exclusive network for just college students. How much cooler could it be?
Twitter Changes Status Updates
In March of 2006 Twitter was launched. Admittedly, I had no idea why anyone would use Twitter in its early days. It was a way to basically mass text. Why not just use a mass text? Remember that the original iPhone would not be released until June 2007 so Twitter was not the mobile application it is today. In fact, there were no mobile apps at the time. So, why would someone go on their desktop or laptop computer just to send a mass text or update?
Well, as time evolved I quickly realized this was a way for people to supplement Facebook if they were more talkative. Today, most college students use Twitter as a way to update multiple times a day while Facebook is a place to make major announcements once a week or once a month. Some recent grads and younger adults only update Facebook once every few months. Twitter is the place to make a snarky comment or share a picture from the National Monument in Washington, DC. Instead of going on Facebook and blasting out opinions on the Alabama vs Auburn game you would do that on Twitter.
News outlets, journalists and TV personalities realized that Twitter was a much better tool to express an opinion quickly. These are not lengthy conversations. You are not dissecting the overall economy. You are simply saying, “I love Gillian Flynn’s newest book.” As social media has evolved the talkative users are on Twitter and the older users are now on Facebook. It is amazing to see how few college and high school students update Facebook on a consistent basis. Some would argue that Facebook fatigue set in several years ago when Facebook changed the “wall” to a “newsfeed”. Facebook also introduced the Like button which truly changed everything.
How the Like Button Changed the Way We Use Social Media
On February 9th, 2009 Facebook introduced the Like button. In my opinion, this changed everything. No longer was it the case that users would share an article, photo or opinion just to raise awareness. They would now share a piece of content to get likes. This meant that users could gauge what was popular and what was not so popular. That new plaid shirt that you like only got 24 likes but the skimpy bikini got 452 likes. What do you think will be the photos that are shared in the future?
Couple the Like button with the increase in popularity of sharing personal photos and you have a complete storm ready to erupt. Instagram was launched in October of 2010 as a photo editing app on the iPhone. The only use of Instagram was to upload a photo and use a filter to make it look “cooler.” There was zero social implementation in the original app. To share photos with friends you had to download them to your iPhone and then share them on Facebook, Twitter or by text. If I remember correctly, there were only a dozen or so filters when Instagram was first released.
When Facebook started to notice that more and more users were sharing photos in hopes of getting likes they purchased Instagram for $1 billion in cash in April 2012. Mark Zuckerburg was very smart to gobble of this app that had many younger users that had already started to move away from Facebook. The reason most younger users were leaving Facebook was the increase in sharing by parents and the older generations. Anyone that has been on Facebook in the last three years knows exactly what I am talking about. The fantastical stories from BuzzFeed or Huffington Post are only interesting to a certain type of user. Also, the political and religious debates are simply not interesting to the 17 year old high school prom queen.
What is interesting to the prom queen is getting likes for her brand new dress that she will be wearing to the school dance. She also enjoys getting attention for her brand new shoes from Neiman Marcus. You can’t make a shoe purchase without sharing it on Instagram, right? Had the Like button not been introduced do you honestly think people would share the photos they do? What if there was a downvote button to go along with the upvote or like button? The amount of less than stellar content on Instagram and Facebook would be flushed down the drain because the quality would rise to the top.
That brings me to my final point. I think with social media fatigue in 2015 setting in we will see much more engagement and interaction on anonymous websites that allow users to vote on the quality of content that gets to the “front page” or goes viral. The websites that will gain in popularity are Reddit and Imgur. We will likely also see growth in apps like Yik Yak and Snapchat.
Anonymous Voting Social Networks Take Over
Snapchat, Reddit and Yik Yak will be the social apps of 2015. These are apps that are more focused on user to user interaction and anonymity. There is no argument to be made that celebrities and TV personalities want as much attention as they can get. Unfortunately, that often leads to a downward spiral. See Amanda Bynes. As teenagers grow older and college students graduate they will quickly realize they do not want to be in the spotlight. While all human beings want some type of attention there can be too much attention.
As a person that owns a social media company I do not mind getting attention online; it helps my brand and my bank account. That said, there are many times in which I will not post on any social media because I do not want to deal with the crazies that disagree with me. There are millions of haters on social media and there is only so much any intelligent person can handle. Instead of worrying about these crazies knowing my name and location I would rather keep my mouth shut and share my thoughts anonymously or privately to my close friends. That is where Snapchat, Reddit and Yik Yak come into play.
In the next 12 to 18 months I truly believe college students will flee from Facebook and will use Yik Yak, Snapchat and Reddit much more. Facebook will always be the White Pages when it comes to meeting up with groups and coordinating a time and place to study. That said, I think we are already seeing students going to other places for entertainment. They are laughing at yaks on Yik Yak. They are sharing funny faces on Snapchat and they are reading AMA’s from knowledgable experts on Reddit. When the high school and college crowd leaves Facebook it is all in due time before other age groups decide it is not worth their time.
With all social networks and social media companies looking for ways to make money it will be interesting to see how the landscape evolves. Snapchat recently announced they will implement ads into stories. Reddit has historically had a problem making money as even Conde Nast couldn’t produce a handsome profit. Yik Yak is just getting off the ground so who knows where that will go. Facebook and Twitter have monetized and it has alienated many users. If monetization gets more intrusive users will simply walk away as social media is not a necessity.
In the long run I think social media will be a great way for businesses and professionals to increase exposure. I also think we are going to see a decline in personal use in terms of updating and sharing. Users will lurk on Twitter and Facebook but they are not going to update nearly as much as they used to. This is strictly my opinion and I am excited to see what happens. Do you think there will be social media fatigue in 2015? Where will Facebook and Twitter users go?