Jan 3rd, 2023, 09:00 AM

Social Media (As We Knew It) Is Dead

By Alyssa Gauk
Image Credit: Alyssa Gauk
The way we interact with each other online, or don’t, has drastically changed.

Trigger Warning: Suicide 

The way we use the Internet to connect with others has changed drastically over the last 20 years. To say that today, social media is anything but social. In 2006, my friend Catherine was persistent that I create an account on this social networking site called Facebook. Reluctant at first, I eventually gave in and created my own profile which I used to connect with friends by writing on their walls and liking statuses. Back then, there were barely any ads or sponsored posts, and my Facebook homepage was a timeline of my friends’ posts in chronological order. Ahh, once upon a time… 

Social media, as the digital space where we connect with friends and family to share conversations, family photos, and birthday celebrations is dead. It’s developed into something much larger than that. Take, for example, what happened with the Cambridge-Analytica data scandal and what Elon Musk has done to Twitter in the last couple of months… social media no longer functions as a networking platform, but rather as a source of media, entertainment,  and an e-marketplace where you can buy things within the platform.

Natasha Suntewari, a digital marketer and social media expert, was once a blogger and influencer for her platform The Open Journal. She described her relationship with social media over the years and said at one point, “it was just a platform to keep in touch.” She used Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, however, that changed as technology and app development progressed, and new social media networks formed. Not long after becoming an Instagram influencer, Natasha learned that social media is “all basically paid to play. If you want to be successful, you have to be active all the time. Constantly posting and liking stuff, even if you don’t want to.” She described social media as a tiring place, and eventually gave up on creating content because it was clear that money was the motivation for a great deal of the things we see online, not true social connections and community.

Carrie Kerpen wrote an article in Forbes and explains that “social media will evolve, not go away.”  She highlights the idea that brands will need to meet people where they are, suggesting that advertisers simply must follow the customers wherever they are. However, we’ve seen that businesses, organizations and governments will follow the people to promote their own (sometimes questionable) agendas.

I conducted an anonymous interview with a friend who works at Twitter. She said we can think about social media as “graduating the medium, from text (MySpace, MSN Messenger, Twitter, Facebook) to image (Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Snapchat) to video (TikTok, Reels, Shorts, YouTube) to gaming/streaming (Discord, Twitch, Fortnite, Roblox).” This idea of graduating is a great way to describe what is happening to social media. It also begs the question of whether the term social media is even appropriate to describe where we are now.

My friend at Twitter also shared some compelling information about social media's harmful effects which brings to question how sociable social media really is. She said, “there are compelling arguments that social media is harmful, particularly to teens” and referred to a study from Twenge, Joiner, Rogers, & Martin (2018) where they found that teens who spend more time on social media are more likely to suffer from depression and are more likely to commit suicide. In the last 10 years, I’ve had countless conversations with friends about how social media makes us feel negative about ourselves and socially isolated. 

When asking my friend what she thinks is in store for the future of Twitter, she refused to answer. However, she brought up the idea of a third space, which refers to a social environment separate from work and home life. In the past, these spaces have refered to libraries and community centers. However, what my friend is suggesting, is that platforms like Discord, Twitch and Roblox may function as Third Digital Places. She says “a user on Discord can start a conversation with like-minded members in a channel or directly. Roblox gamers can chat with other players mid-play. Twitch streamers can chat with their audience.” Yet, I wonder how many of the people occupying this place will be active users versus passive. Based on the trends we’ve seen with other social media platforms, I’m not so sure these places could become the social space we truly need to feel connected with the people around us.


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Kerpen’s Forbes article says that “brands need to align with consumers’ values”. She raises the point that companies must accommodate what the people want, for instance with environmental impact or social justice issues, and many use social media platforms to exercise this. I hope that brands, governments and different organizations that use social media can see that society is becoming more digitally literate. We are starting to see through the greenwashing, photoshopped pictures, empty promises and fake news. I think it’s safe to say that social media has graduated from being a truly social tool. I hope that social media is used for good in the future to help build and maintain communities off and online. Only then can we hold onto the social in social media.