Building on the plethora of terrible news from social media companies this week, The Atlantic published an interesting piece titled “The age of social media is ending.” I recommend reading the whole piece if you can, but here’s a quick, simplified version:
Social networks first hit the scene around the turn of the century as a way to build and manage relationships.
Early entries like Six Degrees landed in 1997, with later efforts like Friendster (2002), MySpace (2003), LinkedIn (also 2003), and Facebook (2004) finding greater success.
It’s important to remember that these were social networks, not social media. They were primarily for maintaining offline relationships.
So sharing important personal news, organizing birthday parties, keeping in touch with friends, etc.
If you wanted to share other types of information, your best bet was a blog.
Granted, these didn’t have all the sharing features we have today. Most posts had little engagement and no comments.
The rise of social media
The switch from social networking to social media came roughly a decade later, with Twitter (2006) leading the way.
This new type of website allowed you to talk to everyone, all at once. Connections were merely a way to better disseminate your message.
For journalists, this was a dream come true. Now they could find sources and reactions to events across the globe instantly, and the industry was hooked.
Instagram, launched in 2010, popularized the concept of social media to the world at large.
Users were treated to a dopamine rush with each new like and comment, in stark contrast to the “no comments” world of the past.
Ordinary people could build a following and make money with “content,” and platforms sold them on that promise.
Existing networks quickly implemented news feeds, groups, and other measures to capitalize on the new trend.
The fall of social media
This was hugely profitable, and Wall Street took notice. Demands for user growth escalated, and tech companies became addicted to scale.
However, the type of content that spread most rapidly was polarizing, offensive, or what we would now call “fake news.”
Before platforms could course correct, it was too late to turn off the feedback loops, and the public revolted.
Compulsion to create “content” has also created an obsession with sharing and reacting to every thought, and no one has that much to say.
The author of the piece compares the pullback from social media to that of smoking in the US: “Quitting that habit took decades of regulatory intervention, public-relations campaigning, social shaming, and aesthetic shifts.”
What will replace it? Personally, I’d like a return to more humble social networks. I don’t want to read and comment on every random person’s thoughts, but I would like to keep in touch with friends and family around the world.
Gamers over a certain age will remember the stellar strategy title Heroes of Might and Magic 3 from more than two decades ago, but now it’s going to be turned into a board game (via pcgamesn). It’s being developed by the Polish company Archon Studio, which has previously made board games for Masters of the Universe and Wolfenstein 3D.
The game supports 1-4 players (so solo campaigns are still a thing), and uses a combination of cards, dice, and paintable minis to recreate the classic RPG. The base game supports three towns: Necropolis, Dungeon, and Castle, with an expansion that adds Rampart and Fortress units. The Kickstarter will launch on November 15, and the game is expected to ship in December 2023.