Social networks are changing. The first signs are already emerging and it not just about the imminent (or not) arrival of a metaverse or two.
While Facebook and its kin face down accusations and attacks on many different fronts, across the board social networks are desperately trying to prove that they are working harder than ever to be agents for good. And not, as some are now suggesting, promoters of violence.
Twitter, for example, is undergoing some major changes. CEO Jack Dorsey is stepping down with immediate effect, as CTO Parag Agrawal becomes the new CEO. This signals a change in itself and a greater focus on engineering. Agrawal has been closely involved with the initiative to decentralise social networks and reinvent how content can be shared across platforms.
Meanwhile, regulators continue to put pressure on social media generally, with governments adopting different approaches and Russia, for example, deciding to throttle Twitter until it has deleted ‘unlawful’ content.
There are more subtle changes too and they could turn out to be more powerful than any amount of sabre rattling from governments.
If social networks are about content, then it seems that users have had enough of the power hose that is the sleep depriving, addictive reality of how content is currently produced and shared.
Some apps are now available that limit use and, oddly, these are called things like Freedom and Offtime. And, as the names imply, they give you a break from Instagram or whatever your poison is. Another app, called Minus goes as far as limiting the number of posts to 100 – the intention being to radically improve the quality of posts by limiting their number.
The shifts are seismic yet subtle and these new apps that are appearing perhaps herald a radical rethink in how social networks are used and how content is consumed.
Social networks are changing and it is high time. Facebook has rebranded and set off on an adventure that some understand and some even embrace but it signals that even the social media giant believes that the writing is on the wall for conventional platforms.
What comes next will be extremely interesting and will say a lot about changing attitudes to, well, everything.