There are some interesting conversations happening right now around the future of social media and online communities.
Documentaries like “The Social Dilemma” have increased people’s awareness of what goes on behind the scenes, creating questions about the future.
Additionally, the C-19 pandemic, lockdown living, global warming and other national and international concerns have caused many of us to stop and question who we are and what we value most in life.
Change is in the air.
For example, the Grassroots & Community Innovation initiative at Wired Sussex has provided an interesting insight into conversations around the use of tech for supporting social need and community groups.
Additionally, communities like Bebo are forging a comeback, based on creation of a safer space online, mutual respect and a new approach to community membership.
Where’s the current trajectory leading us?
A quick web search suggests over half the world’s population now use social media in some form – just take a look at sites like SocialPilot for some stats.
Despite the many benefits, social media and social networking bring some fundamental challenges; for example…
- Projection of ‘best life’ vs ‘real life’
- Screen/device addiction and the fear of missing out (FOMO)
- Targeted advertising
- Lack of accountability and communal values
- Use of data profiling and artificial intelligence (AI)
- The list goes on.
There’s a growing awareness that spending less time online can increase our personal health and wellbeing – make us more ‘present’ to our physical surroundings.
Now’s the time
Now is the perfect time to explore a new way… a values-led approach to social media, based on ‘real life’ not ‘best life’ – to ask questions like…
- Can social media have a positive impact on our wellbeing?
- Can time spent online directly enrich our time spent offline?
- Can we awaken deeper levels of connection, direction and purpose in our online networks?
- Can we explore a new approach to the way we manage our personal data, and the use of AI?
Wealth over health or health over wealth?
Here’s a thought…
If financial gain remains the chief underlying motivator of social media platform providers, won’t people always be ‘the product’ (at least to some extent)?
Won’t their health and wellbeing always be at risk?
Won’t trust always be an issue, regardless of assurances?
This includes the way the underlying businesses are structured, and agreements held with shareholders.
I’ve wrestled with these questions over the past few months, especially as a parent concerned about the impacts of social media on my children.
Could there be an alternative way, where social media platforms are run as co-operatives, with greater levels of transparency and accountability? This is already being explored to varying degrees, e.g. with community-owned platforms like Mastodon – ‘decentralised’, ad-free and non-algorithmic, with no intention to sell you anything.
Whatever the answer, there’s an exciting opportunity ahead of us…
A new approach
I’ve spent the past year exploring a new approach to social media and online community called ‘MakeLifeClick’.
It’s come a long way and we’re about to launch our new app.