When we think about the future of social media, we often have a pessimistic, almost dystopian view. This is probably because we are increasingly concerned about privacy issues and the social and humanitarian commitments of the companies behind our social networks.
Indeed, around the world, we talk a lot about the problems caused by social networks: addiction, depression, privacy (or not) of data and the environmental impact of our digital consumption. But if there is one quality in humans, it is their ability to question themselves. Thanks to technology, we are even able to reflect together with users from all over the world and thus have a more global view of digital topics. This is what I had during the opportunity to do this DAVOS communication summit with experts from all continents, on June 7th. I was on a panel with two colleagues from Spain and Singapore to talk about the future of social networks and we wanted to share our thoughts with you.
Users have a growing need for authenticity
Trends often arise from user needs. For example users ofinstagram had enough of filters and retouched content to turn to more spontaneous and unfiltered content, like simple snippets of everyday life. As marketers, we have the reflex to turn a need into an opportunity and set a trend in content creation. The fact remains that the fatigue of internet users, and Gen Z in particular, amplifies this need for authenticity. We believe this need will remain and will overcome the short-lived of certain trends on two levels:
- The authenticity of our content as a user
The emergence of new social networks such as Be honest shows user fatigue. what is Be honest? The concept is simple: you get a notification and take a picture of what you’re doing, without any filters. The photo is taken with both cameras at the same time to be able to see the person and the action. The idea behind BeReal is to share life with friends in a more authentic way, and the app is all the rage in North America and Europe. After the static tool SimilarWebin Canada, from June 10, 2022, Be honest at the top of the charts of the most advanced social networks. We’re also seeing several changes in the way we share our content. For example the photo dumps that bring together several photos in a carousel that show banal excerpts of everyday life without retouching. And longer, stories that allow us to share content more spontaneously and ephemerally.
- The authenticity of social platforms and the web
The transparency of the platforms in relation to data protection, working conditions in these companies or their energy consumption is increasingly being criticized and challenged. Current and future platforms will certainly need to be more accountable to users. Barring major changes, we can even imagine that the already shattered trust of users will push some to turn to ethically independent and more transparent platforms.
Technology adapts to our mood, not the other way around
The pandemic and recent global crises are known to have an impact on our mental health. On a study by The lancet, we can read that in 2020 cases of major depression and major anxiety increased by 28% and 26%, respectively. According to a study by SpotifyUsers are looking for content that better suits their mood and causes them less stress. For example, the platform sees a trend towards mood-enhancing content or music with slower beats. Social networks and their functionalities will certainly be better adapted to our mood and what we experience collectively.
Indeed, one can imagine that advances in artificial intelligence will enable social media algorithms to offer content according to different moods or different contexts (which is already the case for certain applications elsewhere). Mental health and well-being are also becoming more ubiquitous across platforms. For years we have been seeing an increase in slow content, Meditation apps, mental health awareness capsules and other content aimed at comforting people.
It’s time to take back control of social platforms so they can have a positive impact on our lives!
Reputation problems on the horizon
With the recent high-profile crises, it is becoming increasingly difficult to manage the reputation of brands and organizations online. With the rise of , it becomes all the more difficult to separate the true from the false fake newsof deep fake and citizen journalism on social networks.
Users are therefore hoping for more monitoring from the various platforms in order to remove misleading or unreliable content. On the other hand, this work represents the large-scale hiring of several community managers and/or the implementation of a more reliable artificial intelligence to perform this monitoring. Platforms have already started adding mentions to posts touching on various topics to remind users to check their sources. There will likely be more reviews, penalties, and warnings on articles with unverified sources. Let’s hope so!
In short, technology is changing so rapidly that it’s difficult to predict what the social networks of the future will be like. Even the crystal ball (or the most powerful AI) must have trouble imagining what humans can invent in a few years. One thing is for sure, the human behind the technology will be able to question themselves, find solutions and adapt to the needs of their users. Finally, I dare to believe in a worthwhile digital future, but above all I dare to trust our colleagues from here and elsewhere to innovate for the better!
Rosanne Bouque is Senior Advisor, Digital Communications at NATIONAL PR companymember ofAlliance of Public Relations Firms of Quebec.