The beginning of a "post social media" society is happening before us. The masses on Facebook are becoming frustrated with the services that were meant to make their lives easier. Yes, they are mostly free services, but people expect them to be run as if we pay for them because we inadvertently do. We actually DO pay for these services every time we click, because we fuel hits on these sites, which drives advertising revenue. We also sign up for these sites which expands their user base. We also enter information about ourselves which is bought and sold under that table, many times over without us knowing. And lastly, we click on links on these social media sites and buy goods and services they advertise, from which, money goes back to social media sites in the form of ad revenue.
Is it insane to expect a certain level of service, privacy, security and commitment? No - The way we as human users inhabit these sites and make them massive and dynamic social circles makes them money, we are paying for the services we use. We also add the largest percentage of interesting content to these sites, we spend lots of time promoting their sites to new users. Ask yourself - When was the last time that FaceBook or Twitter had to run a commercial to let people know it existed? In that you can see the work that users have done, and that its not unusual to expect a certain amount of respect and courtesy by the company for its success.
Lately, I've been spending a lot of time on Reddit.Com, its a useful and fairly dynamic site based on content which is posted by anonymous users. In fact, I have spent more time in the last year on Reddit.com than on FaceBook and Twitter. When I realized this, it drove me to consider why that's happening...
Reddit's user base is anonymous, the user account you create does not care about your birthday, who your friends are, or your favorite color. You can make any post you want on Reddit (based on a few simple rules currently) from posting an image to posting links to pages on other sites, or your own written content. Content is moderated by users who earn a certain rank, but users seem to conform in terms of what they post. Its basically the same kind of content you'd find in a Twitter post or in a FaceBook status update, it allows for much more of that content by not limiting characters or requiring you to use a share tool to make your content conform to a certain style. Reddit.com allows for threaded discussion of the posts by all users on the site. Once you make a post on Reddit, everyone has the potential to see it, however, all content posted is moderated by the user base first... Reddit.Com allows its community to "upvote" and "downvote" posts, though it can turn extremely political what gets voted up and what gets voted down.
The community on Reddit.Com seems to have avoided the politics of popularity by taking away the prominence of identity (user names) in posts. The user names are not prominent in posts because all accounts are anonymous. A user can post information about their private lives if they choose to do so, but after years using FaceBook and filtering what you want to say for political correctness because (for example) your mom has befriended you (and can see all of your posts), it would be nice to be able to post your opinion and let a group of people tell you if its favorable solely by clicking on an "upvote" button.
Don't get me wrong, I believe that FaceBook and Twitter are useful, I have a fair amounts of friends and followers on my accounts but it often seems unfulfilling to make continual posts to an audience of just my peers - They get accustomed to my posts, they know what to expect, they've seen it all before, and a lot of the time they're not even logged in. I am not fond of the fact that I have to put hours into "grouping" and adding new friends on these social media sites. FaceBook and Twitter rely on me to be engaged every waking minute to drive my own user base with notifications from mobile apps popping up every minute just to tell me about something that is really not engaging to me, it feels a little bit like social media slavery having to work to make my page popular, on a site where I'm buried into a group of "friends" and "followers". There is no filter for what's relevant or important to me on FaceBook beyond content that has been "liked" which is often a political game focused on the popularity of who posted the content.
Reddit.Com is on its way towards being a major competitor to these sites because it takes the focus off of the people posting content and makes it about whats rated highest by its user base... This ideal makes things interesting to me again. Post are funnier, I don't have to do any work to cultivate a popular profile, I don't have to worry about my privacy being compromised as much, and I don't have to be logged in every day to clear notifications. This has proven to be the easiest way of using social media. When i create new music, I post it to Reddit and then forget it. The upvotes and comments I come back to tell me whether its at hit or not usually, driving feedback for my art, which is one of the primary reasons I got onto social media sites to begin with.
Without praising Reddit.Com too much, there are many innovations that can be made to make the site better, namely design and post categories, but managing large user base as it has, and being so unstructured presents challenges which require a different way of thinking about what a social media site should be. Take a look at all of the new features that FaceBook and Twitter have added since their inception and you'll see that they've been playing a cautious game. The sites have introduced new features, but still remain essentially the same. One of the biggest areas they need to improve in is promoting their individual users. Its getting harder each day for artists to join FaceBook and Twitter and to subsequently develop subscribers. People want feedback and active participation in their own content, as much as they want to see interesting posts from others they like. Unless FaceBook and Twitter begin to open their communities beyond people who follow each other and people who are logged in, they will miss out on the changing tides of their user's expectations.
Reddit.Com is growing at a rapid pace because of the current frustration people have with social media sites, its also growing because of its ease of use, and its growing because its based on anonymity. In the coming months, I predict that Reddit will prove to be a major competitor to the most prominent social media sites because of its focus on content rather than users. People don't want a new mobile app to get notifications about event invites, they want engaging content and a place to post ideas and content of their own that they deem engaging. People don't want a site based on algorithms that tailor marketing towards them based on their deemed personality and preferences into a closed Internet bubble, they're beginning to realize that they want all the information up front and then to vote on what they like.
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