The Internet is great. We can all agree. Thanks to this amazing technology, life has been radically improved. At least for the people that can afford access to it.
Thanks to the Internet we have access to endless stores of human knowledge. We can find recipes on the fly, get turn-by-turn directions while traveling, and video chat with family on the other side of the planet.
But the most beloved and overused nugget of the Internet these days- social media- is perhaps an example of both the best and worst of what this technology has to offer.
I've talked about the merits and problems of social media before, but there always seems to be something new to uncover. Plus it's worth taking a look at how the demise of some top platforms is progressing from month to month.
It's true that social media is dying- to a certain extent. In the past, I've discussed how social media giants are harming their own user bases with aggressive, almost Orwellian, attacks on their freedoms. Yahoo was spying on their email customers (something everyone apparently has forgotten about). Facebook was criticized, particularly during the early part of the election, for blocking conservative posts and content, but letting radical Islamic terrorist pages stay up.
Then there's Twitter. Twitter has gotten plenty of heat over the past year for their treatment of conservative users. They've openly banned accounts over trumped-up charges, while many liberal accounts commit worse acts but are fine. It took strong opposition from conservatives before Twitter started to ban ISIS and other terrorist accounts; perhaps they were slow to do so because of their close association with Saudi Arabia.
All these kinds of tactics erode user confidence and obviously result in a decline in popularity.
But there are some other fundamental reasons for a soon-to-implode state within social media. The environment is ridiculously overcrowded, creating competition that eats away at established user bases. Can you name all the major social platforms currently vying to be top dog? There's Facebook, Google+, AIM, Behance, Blogger, Deviantart, Digg, Flickr, Evernote (yep they have a social aspect to their service), Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vimeo, YouTube, reddit, imgur, Soundcloud, WordPress, and Yahoo.
That's just the ones supported by a Wordpress social network plugin!
I'm sure you can name a dozen more. And while each of these companies tries to offer something different from the rest, they all begin to blur together after a while. Eventually, people lose interest in most of them and stick with a small handful that caters to their tastes. Or the ones that seem to be most popular or widely used by their friends and family (i.e. Facebook).
But where does that leave a black sheep like Twitter? Twitter began as a simple and smart microblogging platform. It was a fun and novel way of sharing thoughts and ideas with just a few words. It was literally Facebook's status update feature, stripped out to be its own service, using 140-characters or less.
Now they claim to be- like all the others- your front page for news and information. Twitter's newsfeed is as cluttered with ads and posts from self-promoting egomaniacs as any other website. The quaint charm of microblogging is long gone. Regular people don't seem to be using the platform to connect with their friends- the core purpose of any social network. Instead, it has been co-opted by companies and independent entrepreneurs who want to sell you their next book.
Yet they still stick with the 140-character limit, which now feels like a detriment, not an asset.
I've been using Twitter for years, and I have seen the decline. At one time, it felt like every conversation was happening on Twitter. You could connect with friends and even celebrities. I heard of major news events via the platform. I often heard back from famous writers, comedians, and actors. Trending topics peaked in the millions as everyone wanted to get in on what was happening.
Now it feels like a trashed ballroom after a prom, with only a few desperate souls lingering by the bathroom. People aren't showing up anymore because the platform no longer works. It's been crowded with so much noise, regular people can't make their voices heard. Twitter has bent to placate celebrities so much that they've ignored the millions that make up their base.
Don't believe me on it:
It's hard for the small core of Twitter addicts to accept, but Twitter just isn't popular enough to be successful. In fact, Twitter is losing customers.
The social media company reported Wednesday that it lost 2 million users in the last three months of 2015. Shares plummeted as much as 12% in after-hours trading.
Twitter had 305 million active users by the end of 2015. By contrast, Facebook (FB, Tech30) has 1.6 billion. Google (GOOGL, Tech30) has eight products with over 1 billion users each. Even Instagram surpassed Twitter in September, growing to 400 million users. (via CNN)
The meager 300 million users Twitter has pale in comparison with Facebook's 1.6 billion. Those are active users, mind you- meaning people that actually use the platform. When a limited platform like Instagram is beating you, you know you have a problem.
This comes just as Donald Trump takes the White House as the next President of the United States. Why does that matter? Because Trump has dominated the mainstream media by circumventing them in order to speak directly to the people. What tool does he primarily use? Twitter, of course.
Instead of press releases or depending on the media to honestly cover his conferences, the President-Elect is going straight to his 20.2 million followers on the social platform. Nightly news programs report on his tweets; they're jumping off points for political discussion.
It's safe to say that what the next President says on Twitter, the world listens to, repeats, and reports on. Yet even his massive influence and visibility is not enough to keep the failing social platform going.
President-elect Donald Trump’s avid use of the social networking service Twitter has not improved the site’s falling userbase, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal...
Trump has used Twitter to lay out a range of policy positions as well as personal opinions, including America’s future trading relationship with China, refuting allegations of Russia’s involvement in the election, and thoughts on Barack Obama’s behavior during the transition period.
However, all the furore over Trump’s tweeting has seemingly had little impact on Twitter’s falling userbase. (via Breitbart)
If the President-elect, whose influence has kick-started the stock market and has already brought back many jobs, can't save your platform- dark times are ahead.
Should Twitter go under in the coming years, rest assured the President will have plenty of other outlets to reach the American public. His Facebook page has 17 million likes. That's not to mention his Transition website and the official Presidential site and accounts he and his administration will take over once he takes office. He'll be just fine.
Twitter, not so much. Their continued abuse of conservative users, gross bias towards liberal racism, and mercenary tactics to promote celebrities and big businesses, will only further their decline.
I'm not sure there is any way to save the dying social network. Perhaps it deserves to die.
Maybe something better will take its place.