Are we becoming increasingly desensitised to social networks?

With over 10 years of exposure to social networks, have we begun to cool off them? A few thoughts and observations.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn, are just a few of the social network that exist, and many of us are subscribers of at least two of them. One of the early-recognised benefits of social networks is that is help people to feel more connected to each other, and to some degree, forge an intimacy between individuals that might have otherwise existed.

However, over the past several months and although membership on popular social networks might still be increasing, there are signs that users are becoming battle-weary. Below are some thoughts and observations.

Users are sharing less personal information

In April, several news reports emerged that Facebook users were sharing less personal content with each other (Source: Bloomberg). Facebook is the world largest social network, having 1.6 billion subscribers, and more than a billion active daily users; hence the trend it is experiencing, which could be unique to that platform, may also be a bellwether for social networks generally.

Further, there is an already known trend of people gravitating to newer (and seemingly more exciting) platforms. For example, whilst MySpace might have been the go-to network back 10 years ago, it was overshadowed and eventually decimated by Facebook. Now, Snapchat is gaining considerable popularity, and while it might be premature to suggest that it could cripple Facebook, it appears to be eroding Facebook’s popularity and use among a certain demographic of users and for certain types of content.

Advertising and revenue generation at the forefront

The typical strategy of most social networks is to aggressively grow their user base, create a captive audience that would attract from advertisers in order to generate revenue. With considerable effort, such an approach can work, such as in the case of Facebook, which has recently begun to realise a profit, however, it can come at a price. Users can begin to feel inundated with advertisements and sponsored content.

Further, outside of paid advertisements, businesses are also actively leveraging their own presence on those networks and generating considerable content that eventually makes their way into their followers’ news feeds. Hence between the sponsored content, and that posted by businesses they are also following, some social networks are losing their intimate feel, which in turn will affect user behaviour and attitude.

Users are also looking to generate income

Finally, it must be emphasised that increasingly, individual users themselves are leveraging social networks to generate income, and even to have a profession. The most obvious example of this is YouTube, where considerable revenue generation opportunities exist for users whose videos have high viewership. Thanks to the success of individuals such as: PewDiePie, who earned USD 12 million from YouTube in 2015 by commentating video games; The Fine Brothers, who earned USD 8.5 million on YouTube through a series of comedy clips; and Michelle Phan, who earned USD 3 million on YouTube, through makeup and beauty tutorials, others are hoping to have similar success.

However, again, behaviour such as this can change how other subscribers perceive a particular social network. Unlike other platforms, YouTube was not thought of a place for intimate, friends and family engagement. However, due to the considerable amount of content of varying quality now available, it can be challenging to find the gems among the chaos.


Image credit:  Tom Gill (flickr)


1 Comment

  • Increasingly these social networks are somewhat akin to various cable channels except more of an interactive medium which tends to create a bond between users which cable might not have been capable of. Eventually some do win out over others, much like cable, and are able to command greater following and revenues. Lead one to think; what will be the next frontier?

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