Click one layer deeper, and you’ll see different subsets of these groups will use some combination of platforms, and some will simply not use any social media at all.
In fact, social media is a very polarizing topic. It creates connections that are positive and allow people to stay in touch, but it also creates bubbles of information that create division among people.
The last two weeks have seen social media bear the weight of those challenges while also silently fostering movements of its own. The largest and most impactful examples of this come from the way advertisers are boycotting Facebook, while young people are “punking” politicians.
Facebook is feeling the effects of not taking action on hateful rhetoric which is perpetuated on its platform. Brands like Patagonia and REI are pulling ads from Facebook because they want to punish the platform for not taking steps to label incendiary speech, or just outright remove it.
Advertisers are finding the only way they can put the pressure on Facebook is to pull their dollars, which could almost certainly have an effect. Facebooks needs to respond — and quickly.
In unrelated, yet related, news, the Trump campaign saw themselves pranked by the so-called TikTok Teens, who requested tickets for his rally in Tulsa and then didn't attend. They made the administration feel the excitement of thinking a million people would attend the rally, only to have slightly fewer people than a minor league baseball game in a third-tier market (around 6,200 people, according to the Tulsa Fire Department) actually there.
On one side, we have big corporations penalizing the largest social media platform for a lack of action, and on the other we have young people quietly taking action to create ripples on a massive public stage. Both actions show the current realization about social media: People love their social platforms and want them to be more than just a direct connection to their immediate friends and family.
The masses want social media to be more than just a bubble for sharing pictures of their kids, dogs and cats. They want it to be an extension of who they are, as well as to create conversations that can spur a better social culture.
For that to happen, social media needs to evolve.
Social media needs to accept that it is a publisher and not just a platform. Opinions and personal posts should have a different weight than major figures with data and facts to share. Labels can be a simple notation, or they can be a graded scale that alerts users to the basis of fact vs. opinion that may be represented in a tweet, share or post.
Social media needs to make it easier for you to get a view into other “bubbles” so you can understand differing points of view. The only way we ever solve anything is to understand the other side. Ignorance is not bliss, nor is it a strategy.
Social media is an amazing tool for aggregating content into a graph, but it should not shield you from the opposing points of view on that graph. Rather it should enable you to search and see other ideas so you hear, digest and respond in a constructive manner. It should create opportunity for dialogue and for inclusion rather than creating a more divisive and siloed approach to content.
Social media should also connect to platforms that enable action, whether they be other funding platforms or news outlets or other ways to foster dialogue.
Those who shape social media are being forced to reflect and change. The way they ultimately decides to respond will determine the role it plays in the future — if any role at all.