For this last blog, we were asked, “What is the Next Big Thing [in Social Media]? What will Connect Us Next?” I think to answer the questions, there might have to be two different answers.
To answer what the next big thing is: I don’t know. I don’t think anyone predicted that a website with walls on which you can write, people you can poke, and things you can “like” would be a huge success until it actually happened (even though “likes” are a more recent development on Facebook). I’m not sure the sound of limiting oneself to 140 characters in things called “tweets” would strike people’s fancy, but somehow it has. Predicting specifically the next big thing is impossible. It is not a science. In many ways, if a social media site gets big, it’s because it gets lucky.
What I do feel will be the next big thing is something that is increasingly more comprehensive and invasive than what we already use. Erik Kessels recently did an art exhibit to illustrate how “we’re exposed to an overload of images nowadays” by printing off all the pictures uploaded to Flickr in a 24-hour time period. You can see the result to the right. It seems less like connected-ness and more like drowning.
We’re increasingly living our lives on and through social media sites, and we’re addicted to it. While we use them as an escape (from reality), we’re actually making them harder to escape. To be blunt, we are narcissistic and fickle, and because we rarely limit ourselves, social media is often used to feed these vices.
So, now that I’ve painted a sufficiently bleak picture and possibly offended some people, onto question two: what will connect us? The same thing that’s always connected us: actual, real-life community. I’m not a Luddite who thinks that social media is antithetical to this, but often times it is not used as it should be used: to aid community.
With this as the goal, boundaries will naturally occur. One’s goal should not be a frenzy to connect to as many people on social media as possible. Sure, it’s fine to be friends with someone on Facebook. But when you use Facebook as the primary source for learning about the person, you’ve missed the point. When you go on vacation or to a concert and spend your whole time taking pictures to share on Facebook and Twitter, you’re not being there.
I’ll play myself out with this Jeff Tweedy video. I shared this video in a tweet last week and a blog comment two weeks before that, but it’s worth sharing more properly here. He reacts specifically to people talking at concerts, but I think there are principles that can be applied more broadly. “I want us all to be here together.”