When you hear the term social media, what comes to mind? Facebook? Twitter? Or perhaps even that embarrassing video you were tagged in by your friends last night. Of the modern age of technology, social media has perhaps had the most profound effect on our lives, reaching out with its addictive grip to almost everyone with a smart device. Social media sure has come a long way, from the forums and chat rooms of the 90’s where people used to retreat to from their daily lives, hiding under their avatars and fantasy names, to the less private Facebook and Twitter where people you may have met but barely spoken to, can know more of your life than you think. People used to believe that with the invention of the mobile phone, human communication was at its finest, how wrong they were, but who’s to say that even now we are at our peak in terms of keeping in touch with each other? Social media still has a long road ahead, with its future promising, but there is still a mostly unseen dark side of it that has been seen creeping into society, from privacy breaches to cyber-bullying. We can expect to see a lot more changes in social media, from new platforms to more regulations on internet communication or maybe even cross platform communication.
Advertising is a big part of social media, with most platforms making their profits from it. Big brands and companies have had to adapt to a new ‘phenomena’ of advertising, no longer being able to solely rely on the old fashioned ‘in your face’ TV advertising. Companies have to be tactful, they need to play the game right and come up with unexpected, imaginative ways to get the user’s attention, or face having their ads swatted away into the abyss of news feeds and selfies. One example of such innovation is that of Frijj’s, a milkshake brand, where they created a game for one if its products, requiring players to watch funny YouTube videos without laughing. Using facial recognition technology, the game was able to recognise when the player laughed and give them a record of how long they lasted and allow them to share their times and challenge friends on Twitter or Facebook. This kind of outlandish advertising paid off for Frijj, attracting around 140,000 people in the first few weeks, illustrating the power of advertising through a social medium. The future of social media will certainly in part be shaped by advertising, as many platforms such as Facebook will adapt in the best way to deliver adverts to its users without affecting their experience.
Of course nothing in this world is perfect and a thing such as social media can never be flawless, despite having the potential to do so much good. On the surface, the downfalls of social websites include procrastination, with many people now finding themselves spending hours in front of their screens, busying themselves with their virtual social life, carefully choosing the pictures to upload to their profile, or working their brain hard to come up with a witty post. The more sinister aspects of social media include cyber bullying. So many times now we are hearing stories on the news of young kids being driven to suicide due to the uncontrollable nature of cyber-bullying. Many vulnerable young children, who make profiles on social platforms, copying their friends and class mates, are unaware of what may befall them. Those who already receive bullying at school, come back home to face a new front of abuse and can no longer even seek refuge in their own homes. We can expect to see a lot more regulation when it comes to social media.
Take Facebook for example, there is already an option to report someone who has been posting inappropriate content or abuse towards someone, but this may not be enough to tackle what seems to be an epidemic. Many anonymous apps such as ‘secret’ are starting to make it big; this time providing users with anonymity. Social networks such as ‘secret’ may seem innocent at first allowing a teenager to confess their heartaches to the world, but this may be turned into a tool to slander or abuse someone under a cover.
An interesting proposal for the future of social media could be cross platform communication. Say someone has accounts on multiple mediums from Twitter and MySpace to Google+ and YouTube, but tends to only use one of them a lot more than others or wants to communicate with someone else on a different platform but does not want to create a new account for it. A new frontier for the development of social media could be the implementation of an effective and secure standard for communication between social networks. This would provide for a truly innovative way to reach out to other people and internet communities you otherwise would not be able to. It would however, alter the risk landscape, and if one platform is hacked or maliciously attacked, the consequences of this could potentially ripple to other platforms and have devastating effects.