A social media evangelist takes stock of the industry’s present
In 2009, I was excited about social media. Starting work at a social media management SaaS firm, I couldn’t be anything other than optimistic.
Information would be easier than ever to disseminate, and there was nothing the traditional media gatekeepers could do about it. Without needing to know a line of code, Joe Public could finally speak without a filter—no longer would anyone be able to stifle his speech.
With this triumph of the commons, democracy would flourish. Or so I thought. So what happened?
Everything went off the rails
In those days of social media infancy, I thought networks like Facebook and Twitter would do what blog platforms like WordPress already did: make software and allow anyone to configure it as they please on their own servers.
But that did not happen. Instead, social networks decided that not only were they building software, they were to be publishers as well. Therefore, they became editor of the newsfeed, building algorithms that privileged certain messages over others—engineering for maximum engagement.
Of course, as a social media evangelist, my optimism turned into dread. Social media wasn’t on the wrong track. It was off the rails.
We need a social media revolution (again)
Having gone up and close and personal with the first social media revolution, I say it’s time we finish what we started.
Yes, anyone with an account can say what’s on their mind, but that’s not going far enough. So long as major social networks algorithmically editorialize what’s placed in newsfeeds, information gatekeepers are going to hold sway on what’s deserving of our attention.
The stakes are high. This time the gatekeepers are larger and more powerful than traditional media. This time they’re armed with hundreds of billions of dollars in war chests. And believe me, our very identities are at stake.
Why I’m a believer in DEEP tech
What is DEEP tech? It stands for:
Having seen what happens when social media companies get into the business of publishing, it’s time we build sustainable technology that nullifies the algorithmic push to editorialize content.
Social media software with DEEP principles delivers more human-to-human connections because it prizes, above all else, peoples’ humanity. No one is manipulating your content to drive engagement. No algorithm is messing up your feed.
If we can pull of this second social media revolution, I will no longer feel dread about our collective future. Maybe my initial optimism about social media will prove true.