Trends in the Social Network

Here's where are the trends in social networks seem to be leading us.

The Need to Connect

Connection with our fellow humans is one of the most important and satisfying experiences in life. Recent technological development has allowed worldwide social networks over the Internet. The potential is there to support this important, satisfying experience of human connection. Virtual connection is good. Real life connection, perhaps facilitated by social media, is better.

Do we connect to our friends on social networks? (hint: These days it's called social media.)

A while back, I read an article on Stratechery called Instagram, TikTok, and the Three Trends. Oxford comma in the title, so I thought it might be interesting.

A HackerNews comment by slowmovingtarget summarized the article well, pointing out the trends in social media:

  1. Medium: text -> images -> video -> 3D graphics -> VR

  2. AI: time -> rank -> recommend -> generate

  3. UI: click -> scroll -> tap -> swipe -> autoplay

I think that's a fair summary, and it seems reasonable to me given my own observations.

Social Media Destination

What's the destination we're headed toward?

Reality is blocked out. Virtual is omnipresent. Are we going to go visit our friend in a headset? Save your $3500 from your Apple Vision Pro, and take an epic vacation with your besties.

Connection is replaced with content. Content cluttered in ads. Now the content isn't even human-authored. It's a characature. You're not seeing your stuff that your friend wrote. Some platform has decided to feed you generated concoctions.

There is no end. We are induced to consume endlessly. Doesn't even require a button push. Keep the brain chemicals happy, and you can live here on our platform. Gonna be too late to actually call that friend after you log off here.

This is a dark destination. At this moment, free of the dopamine high of such endless, high-definition entertainment can bring, I can see nothing I appreciate in this.

Destination But Not Predestination

Of course, just because these are the trends doesn't mean that they will be for us. We don't have to end up there.

But these are the trends and the defaults. Working differently within these social media platforms will be swimming upstream, against the current. Care will be required to stay on these platforms an not end up where the main stream is flowing. It's easy to get sucked in or tired of the extra effort.

What's the value of this?

For us, what do we get out of social networks beyond the trends and destinations explored?

We get a friend list. We can potentially stay in contact with the people on that list in this software. We can get news, shopping opportunities and entertainment. We give those things: news, stuff to sell and entertain. We can say things to our friends, followers or the public, in many audio/visual mediums. As with connection, these features are often better in real life.

I feel like there should be potential there. It's an amazing thing to have 1 billion people around the world use a piece of communication software. But after years of seeing what is actually accomplished with it (by myself and others), I am less enthusiastic.

What am I not seeing? What value could I have but I'm missing? I think it may exist. Anything I could get or contribute on a social network that I couldn't outside of one?