During the Q&A at a recent speech on social media 2018, someone asked me the question, “What do you think will happen in the future to social media? Where is it going?” I gave some glib remark about how the answer to that question is way above my pay grade. But it stayed with me and I thought a lot about it over the next few days.
I’m amending my answer.
The future of social media will be determined by “we the people,” not by the management of platforms like Facebook, or our elected officials. It’s up to us whether the wrinkles and growing pains of that which has taken us down some dark roads over the past few years continues down that path to deteriorated information highways, or we fix the potholes and make the platforms the amazing communities they were meant to be.
A few weeks ago, someone posted a Facebook donation page seeking to raise $1,200 for legal assistance for an immigrant family. By one week later, $20,000,000+ had been raised through small donations by thousands of those who are feeling frustrated with the present government’s immigration policies. I received at least twenty requests from friends to give. I went and looked at the page and could find no information—absolutely nothing—about the couple who started the page. I messaged the friends who forwarded the request and asked them if they had checked out the origin of the page before they’d sent in their money. Not one had. Turns out, the couple did the right thing and turned over the money to RAICES, who we can only hope will do good with it. But that’s really not the point, is it? After all, we have read about fake news and fact-checking information for ourselves. Hundreds of thousands of Americans were willing to send money—and their credit card information—to strangers who had not legitimized themselves in any way other than by posting a compelling picture of a small child and a request to help fix a terrible problem many feel paralyzed by.
When are we going to wake up and stop posting ridiculous pictures of men with orange hair? Stop sharing information and images that when checked out turn out to be not only incendiary, but untrue as well? You see, the content on all social media platforms is ours. It is what we the people post, not the management of Facebook, or the government. We control that content, and when you click on something that has zero value, you give it value.
So, the future of social media? It’s up to us; that’s the future.