We do it. Our spouses do it too. So do our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, kids, co-workers and just about all of our neighbors. Why is social media so popular?
For starters, social media is free and easy to use. But that’s the minimum requirement for any website or app developer who wants their thingamabob to catch on quickly and widely. And most don’t. At a gut level, what sets social media apart, I think, is that it plays to our desire to belong. You may be home alone on a Saturday night, but there’s still a place you can go to connect with other people, to gripe, to listen, to live vicariously. It’s a virtual “Cheers.”
From a tech perspective, it strikes me that the rise of social media corresponded almost perfectly with the rise of smartphones and other mobile devices. This is no coincidence. We needed things to do on these powerful new pocket computers, and social media apps like Facebook and Instagram seized on this to position themselves as the first place people go on their phones.
Now that they have our attention, social media sites will almost certainly use emerging technology to get us to spend more and more time on their platforms. In media and on Wall Street, growth is king. So look for Facebook and others to get more immersive — more livecasting, more audio and video chat, more shopping, more location-based services. They’ll want us to live on their networks, if we don’t already.
The counterweight to this will be growing familial and social pressure (if you will) to scale back on social media as an activity. People are starting to realize how much time they spend — nay, waste — looking at other people doing things. They’re also coming to learn just how much information about them is being collected and exploited by businesses, thanks to social media. And they’re growing tired of the political division. The backlash is coming.