Social networks – a simple, yet, revolutionary concept. Many have come and gone but only a few have stuck.
There have undoubtedly been functionally superior products to Facebook, Twitter and the like, however, they rarely get to see the light of day.
Why is that?
If reading Nir Eyal’s ‘Hooked’ has taught me anything, I would say the answer is… our primitive brain. As much as we pride ourselves in being an intelligent species, we are not all that logical. Our brains primarily rely on heuristics, biases & emotions to form judgements. Humans are exceptionally gifted at developing routines and habits. We inherently dislike change – thinking requires effort and it can be taxing in terms of resources. This is known as path dependency.
The truth is, developing a better social network is not the hard part; the problem lies in getting people to make a mentally taxing effort to even consider an alternative. This is why we are ‘locked in’ to the limited number of services that are prevalent.
But this ‘lock in’ has a cost in the form of stagnation. Inspect your Facebook feeds, for example. You will notice that it is not about connecting with your friends anymore. Rather, the focus is on serving you content so that you can be ‘monetised’ or it is just a stream of memes and jokes where we mindlessly tag our friends. Consumption is no longer active, rather, it is something we do on autopilot because we are stuck in a notorious loop. Twitter, too, has been having its own unique problems with trolls, political correctness and more.
On the other hand, micro-platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest are thriving. Why? It’s because they allow for a deeper connection which is no longer found on the gigantic platforms. These micro networks are easier to digest and excel at very few specific things and that is what makes them attractive.
I think this is what the next wave of social media will look like – less consolidation and more niche platforms with a small set of unique features. Especially platforms that bridge the gap between our physical spaces and digital spaces, doing so contextually.
Social media is starting to face the same trend as cable TV. People do not want a large clunky bundle which is all encompassing. Instead, we want the flexibility to pick our own channels as per our specific tastes.
With trends such as Live, AR, VR, etc, growing rapidly, it will be interesting to see which companies manage to use this to enable deeper human connections and not turn us merely into passive content consuming machines.
I would love to hear what your thoughts are on the next wave of social media platforms. Thanks for your time!