Social media has been something of an obsession since the days of MySpace but is America falling out of love with it? If the latest study from the Pew Research Center is right, then maybe so. Social media usage has been increasing year on year for longer than a decade, but have we finally reached a saturation point? Or are people turning away from social media?
Everyone’s Already Got It
Growth can be a misleading statistic. Growth obviously indicates numbers of new users, and while there are new people being born every day, the speed of growth of many of the social media platforms has far outstripped the number of new users joining the world. So, has growth just stopped because Facebook et al have reached all of the users they can? Or is it a sign of something else.
Is It Healthy?
Another question around social media is what effect does it have on our mental health. Stanford University professor of political science, Rob Reich has been quoted saying “… the next decade will bring a net harm to people’s well-being. The massive and undeniable benefits of digital life — access to knowledge and culture — have been mostly realized. The harms have begun to come into view… and the trend line is moving consistently in a negative direction.” A good question to ask yourself is “how do you feel when you finish using social media?” are you anxious, jealous, unhappy? If you are, then maybe you’re not getting the right things out of it.
It’s often said but bears repeating, you only see a person’s highlights on social media. We look at our friends getting great results at the gym, or on a sunny beach and obviously feel a pang of jealousy. Especially when we’re browsing Instagram in our pants after eating two Dominos pizzas. Perhaps this is showing itself in the growth figures. People have become fatigued with the shiny “everything is awesome” attitude of many people on social media because it makes them feel like crap.
Another factor that could be turning dissatisfied users away from social media is the applications themselves. Instagram and Facebook carried out a fairly big shift recently moving their timelines away from chronological order, to a “recommended” order. This allows the application to drip feed you content throughout the day, and thus keeps you coming back to the app and checking it. But, if you’re not enjoying the process, then are you motivated enough to come back multiple times per day to check? The statistics seem to be saying ‘no’.
Is Social Dead?
Social media usage is still very high. The chances of it disappearing overnight are non-existent, but this could be an important time for Facebook and their competitors. They already have the users, but need to find new ways to engages them, and keep them interested. Recent updates from Instagram also show that they’re aware of social media addiction and the negative sides of their applications, as you can now put a limit on how long you use the app per day. So, how long will that limit be?