When social media first started to emerge in the mid-2000s as a popular way to connect online, marketers and consumers split into two camps. One camp boldly proclaimed that social media was the wave of the future. The other denounced social media as a fad (something people still occasionally insist today, more than 10 years later).
It’s clear that social media has had and continues to have a substantial impact on our daily lives—and it’s hard to imagine sites like Facebook ever going away, with more than 1 billion people currently using the platform. But when you look at the broad context of social media, and some of the recent developments shaping the industry, you have to wonder—are we heading to a post-social media world?
Coming and Going
For starters, let’s take a look at the rates of emergence and decay of social media platforms. In the early days of social media, and even as recently as a few years ago, new platforms would spring up constantly, looking for a piece of the social pie, and they’d die off just as quickly when their user bases wouldn’t grow to sustainable levels.
These days, that rate has substantially slowed, and people are gravitating only to a handful of apps—Facebook earns the attention of 79 percent of adults, with a cluster of other apps (WhatsApp, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter among them) hovering close to the 30 percent mark.
This slowdown means a couple of things that could indicate progress toward a post-social future:
- Normalization of social media. With social platforms becoming more stable, less novel, and more intuitive, users aren’t focusing on social media as separate from their daily lives. They’re becoming more integrated, and over time may cease to be considered distinct entities.
- Centralization of platforms. It’s also worth noting that single platforms are rising above the fold, giving them power to dictate the future of social media development in the same way that Google dictated the development of search for years. As this trend increases, social media platforms will likely start heading in newer, bolder directions that leave our old conceptions of “social media” in the dust.