Will Social Media Become Less Social

Phew. I’m not the only one. With pretty much every single person remotely connected to the business of selling things to other people convinced that ‘social media’ is going to continue its unstoppable growth, and that this space is wide open for brands to colonise for the sole purpose of selling more stuff to more people (connecting / creating dialogue etc), it seems there is very little space for cautious skepticism.

Now I definitely don’t believe that we should pretend it doesn’t exist, or should wait to see how it plays out. But I can’t help feel that we may be heading for a tragedy of the commons. While the ‘space’ of the internet is seemingly limitless, peoples’ capacity to be spammed at isn’t. A fair bit has already been written about humans’ capacity to only maintain 150 connections, so I don’t know how one can ‘follow’ 800-odd people on Twitter and gain anything meaningful from the experience. Especially considering that many of the Tweets are links to other articles or content on the web.

So I enjoyed David Armano’s predictions for social media trends in 2010, most notably the first one: Social media begins to look less social. Reflecting on my own attitudes to social media from a purely personal and non-professional perspective, I was reminded of Faith Popcorn’s 1990’s term ‘cocooning’. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a level on social media cocooning – retreating from everythingeverywhereeveryone and attempting to put some order into our web lives.

Another good piece, from BBH Labs, Will Social Media Eat Itself, explores factors at play in recent research that suggests peoples’ trust in their friends’ opinions has dwindled significantly, and also some thoughts on what we should be doing to  avoid social media making a meal of itself.

For myself, it just means that is becoming more and more important to start every conversation about entering or existing in or exploiting this space with the question: Why would people want to spend time with us? There has been some brilliant work done in this space (BK Whopper Sacrifice is one everyone should be familiar with) and hopefully we will see a lot more of it. If not relevant, useful, insightful or valuable, then at the very least unique and bloody brilliant.


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