Rick Ross unfollowed his 17-year-old daughter on Instagram after he found out she was pregnant. A picture of an egg became the most liked post on Instagram, beating out Kylie Jenner. These are perhaps the two greatest parables for humanity’s relationship with social media I’ve ever come across. So where’s the future of social media headed?
One word: community.
The Dark Alleys of Social Media
A couple of times a year, an investigative journalist uncovers an underground, dicey side of social media.
In 2019, we discovered the human skull trade on Instagram and gun smugglers of Snapchat. Two years ago, it was uncovered how pedophiles use YouTube comment sections as a means to share the specific points in videos that show shots of kids in compromising angles. And back in 2015 Vice broke down The Thriving Online Market for Women’s Dirty Underwear.
Yes, it’s disturbing that social media facilitates these odd (usually disturbing) fetishes and hobbies. But it’s also, objectively, exactly what social media is supposed to do:
From the ice chewers bulletin board to the community where people discuss and critique each other’s diabolical plans, the Internet (specifically public forums like social media) thrive at creating communities for like-minded folks. Sometimes people are like-minded about things most of us find distasteful or repulsive.
When asked, “Over the last ten years or so, have you seen an increase in the number of people who [believe] these things [conspiracy theories]?” Neil deGrasse Tyson responded:
I think that number of people may be the same over time. They just now can write a blog that the whole world has access to via a search engine. You’d be alone with your own view that has no correspondence to objective reality, you type it into a Google Search, and it’ll find every other person like you who thinks the same way – giving you the false sense that you’re actually onto something.
No matter how against the grain these ideas and practices are, they are ultimately communities. Social media hasn’t created weirdos and conspirators. It’s connected them.
And the communal byproduct of the Internet is only going to get stronger in the future.
Social Media in the Metaverse
The next evolution of the Internet is what’s called the metaverse – a culmination of the Internet and the boundless possibilities in augmented and virtual reality technologies. The Internet has done a lot of the grunt work in bringing information, services, and experiences online. But there are more efficient ways to deliver, discover, and interact with everything that exists on the Internet.How the Internet becomes the Metaverse
That includes social media. There are better ways to interact with your digital communities.
The metaverse will take the same greatness that the Internet brought us in the way of finding digital support (community), except add the physical presence and real-time interaction. And it’ll still remain anonymous, if desired.What is the Metaverse?
Instead of hopping on Instagram and scrolling through an endless feed.
Your metaverse social media experience may look more like a walk through a park. Your friend’s posts greet you as you walk by, playing whatever pre-recorded clip or image they’ve posted. And you can respond real-time, with real emotion… instead of bland text.
Or it might not. I don’t know. It hasn’t been created yet.
Regardless, social media in the metaverse provides an interface that allows us to more easily avoid the commercialized News Feed items from people we don’t know and companies we don’t care about. And prioritize the activity from the friends and communities we care for.
Facebook realizes the looming issue within their business, which is the loss of intimacy on their platform. This is why they’re prioritizing communities and close connections over the commercialized News Feed.
It’s also not a coincidence that Facebook is investing heavily in the Metaverse. 18 months ago, I boldy claimed Facebook’s Oculus Go: The iPhone of Virtual Reality.
The Future of Social Media
Although Facebook is positioned to be the first social media platform to win big in the Metaverse. I really hope that social media is more aligned around Reddit.
I truly believe that Reddit is the closest we’ve come to a perfect model for social media.
Reddit works because the community polices it. Each community thread’s members hold one another accountable. They rarely, if ever, have the issues that Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram face around violent content and fake news. Not to mention, there is literally something on Reddit for everyone.
Listen, at 6’5” I’ve led an entire life of people telling me how lucky and happy I should be to be so tall. And I normally agree. But there are also a load of struggles I face because of my height that most people don’t understand. This is why I love the “r/tall” thread on Reddit. Because I relate to other tall people airing out their frustrations.Ryan
Whether it’s a form of Reddit or Facebook or something entirely new in the future of social media. When we do eventually transition to social media in the metaverse, there are two improvements I’d like to see:
- Identity verification, if you’re going to broadcast your thoughts.
- Better content monitoring (w/ transparent guidelines)
And a few lasting tips to make sure you stay ahead of the future of social media:
- Be platform agnostic
- Understand how the Metaverse will be created
- Focus on finding your communities
- Don’t forget the power of human to human connection