2017 was the year the newsfeed died. Despite Facebook desperately attempting to resuscitate it in other forms people no longer trust either the algorithmic content or the broader recommendations of others within larger social networks. Low quality clickbait content is leading to network fatigue. The proliferation of hate speech and fake news flourishing within these networks has led to many of us abandoning open social networks altogether in favour of closed groups and private forums.
Whilst the ability to reach a massive global audience was one of the founding principles behind the design decisions at Facebook June saw the change of their mission statement from “making the world more open and connected” to “give people the power to build community”. The social structures that exist in the real world are finally more closely aligned with their goals due to the problems that being ‘open’ bring with it. Unfortunately, their product is still bound firmly to the original mission statement and its going to take some serious engineering overhaul to fix it.
Both Twitter and Facebook have been in damage control for a while. Twitter just performed a Nazi purge. Facebook are releasing PR dressed as socially responsible content asking ‘Is social media bad for us’ (TLDR: quelle surprise posting more apparently makes you feel better). This week, with a complete 360 move Facebook released another update on their efforts against fake news. Over the last few months its all we’ve been reading about, and rightly so.
Elsewhere on the web there has been a resurgence in smaller more intimate forms of communication. Slack private communities are exploding despite the fact that the company had no intention that the product would be used for this purpose. Blogs are turning towards closed newsletters to deliver their content and are building better relationships with their readership that are much more profitable. 1000 true fans logic in action. Many of us have already gone to ground in search of a better social experience online and are rejecting the spoon fed newsfeed altogether. Even the competitors of the bigger networks are taking a swipe, recognising the fragility of the house of cards that Facebook and other newsfeed driven networks are currently balancing:
Snapchat have announced this month that they are about to ‘separate social from media’. From this month’s AXIOS op-ed:
The personalized newsfeed revolutionized the way people share and consume content. But let’s be honest: this came at a huge cost to facts, our minds and the entire media industry.
With smaller, more personal communities being found on ‘dark social’ applications such as Slack, Telegram, Viber and WhatsApp the major social networks are having to shift focus away from the newsfeed to building more meaningful relationships between smaller groups of people. Not before time, mass distribution at any cost is no longer the end goal; we are finally starting to value deeper, more considered interactions with our audiences.