This could be the year social media backlash finally kicks in

social media
Credit: Gustavo Frazao /

If 2017 is the year that we finally pop some hype bubbles about 5G, VR, etc, it may also be the year people realize social media isn’t worth the stress.

That sloshing sound you heard during the first half of January was the sound of hot and cold running predictions. These tend to form a sludge that can take up most of your inbox. Some predictions are actually quite good, some are pedestrian, some are little more than clickbait, for instance an email about an infographic, where the link simply leads to the company’s website. One or two make you want to bash your head against your keyboard, such as ‘the number of connected things will increase’ and ‘5G is not set for take off in 2017’. Honestly.

One company that provided at least one thought provoking prediction – albeit a little late in the game – was Telenor.

Among Telenor Research’s positive predictions for 2017, was perhaps the first stirrings of something less positive for social media sites, yet very probably positive for people.

Telenor thinks that this year will be positive for IoT, AI and chatbots but sees the first signs that social media might be about to take a break. Or at least kids will take a break from social media.

This is backed up by recent research into children’s online habits, which highlights the dark side of social media. Bullying, blackmail, hacking are rampant among children, yet many are addicted.

In the UK, a quarter of children ‘found it difficult to go several hours without checking them [smartphones], reported missing sleep and said they wanted to spend more time away from their devices’.

Add to that lingering threat irrelevant and annoying advertising, the torrent of fake news, political ranting and clickbait that spreads your data deep and thick and even across the internet and you can see that a slowdown, even reverse, is not the wild assumption that you might first think.

Kids are clever and wily. They will go to endless trouble to avoid paying for stuff online, and almost as much trouble to avoid advertising. If it becomes cool to drop social media, in favor of closed groups of friends on messaging platforms, then the end, or at least the beginning of the end could be nigh for platforms such as Facebook.

We have said before that 2017 could very well be the year when the hype around a lot of “infallible” predictions and directions gets a wake up call. 5G – the fully commercial and standardized version – is still years away. Autonomous cars will be ready years before the standards, safety and other sticklers will be ready to allow them in. Security concerns will pour cold water onto home automation applications (but we had fun with them while it lasted).

While we wake up from the hype around virtual reality (and other things) and realize that real reality is challenging enough, we might also realize that real friends are better than Facebook friends and create our own communities, under our own control.

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