Why Social Media Isn’t What it Used to Be

The advent of social media is undoubtedly considered one of the greatest technological advances in human history, and for good reason. It has made it easier for us to connect with those around us, has made staying in touch with loved ones far simpler than it used to be, and has overall created avenues for interaction for people that might not have gotten much of it otherwise. All in all, social media has helped make the world seem more like a global community, and has fostered a sense of togetherness for the human race.

However, over the past few years, public opinion of social media has drifted drastically. Whereas before it was an exciting new form of media that everyone wanted to get in on, now people report that using social media actually makes them feel bad. It gives them a sense of anxiety, and has created a culture of vapidity and shallowness, where your social media outreach tends to matter more than who you are as a person. What went wrong? Where did social media take the wrong turn that brought it to this unfortunate place?

A common argument is that the newer users that have flooded social media are to blame. Proponents of this theory seem to think that in the era of new social networking such as Facebook, the communities that once were cherished on the internet pretty much disappeared and were replaced by users that created the vapid online spaces of today. However, this is a pretty reductive argument. People were shallow back then as well, and they are just as shallow now. Everyone just seemed to have their own space in which they could do whatever it is that they wanted.
Another possibly theory is that human beings as a species are just becoming less happy. There is some truth to this. Our modern world often feels like a dystopia, with the very thing that we need to use in order to experience a sense of belonging is also the thing that gives us anxiety about where we are in life and what we are doing. This is also not quite right. The change in impact that social media had is not that old. It started about half a decade ago. This isn’t a long enough period of time for the state of our species to impact how we view what is essentially a very new technology.

It is fair to say that a big part of the reason why social media stopped making us happy has to do with the changes that occurred within the companies that own social media platforms. They became aggressive. They started modifying their algorithms to make social media use habitual. And so, it turned into an addiction, and much like any other kind of addiction the initial high was not sustainable and now users are forever stuck trying to get the sense of wonder that they used to have and feeling miserable when they fail to do so.
Social media in and of itself is not a bad medium. It did have a positive impact on the world. However, nowadays most people feel like they would have been better off without social media. Something needs to change, and this chance needs to come from the various companies that are governing our disparate social media platforms. The only problem is that they don’t have an incentive to change. The way they do things right now earns them a lot of money, and until this is addressed social media will continue to become worse.

Wael Ghonim suggests better transparency practices can help social media move in right direction. According to his research:
"We need a radical shift in the tech industry’s approach to how we communicate with one another. It is no longer acceptable to blindly build products, which carry huge implications for society, without accompanying transparency."
Read Next: What Makes Us Addicted to Social Media - The Psychology Behind Dependence (Infographic)
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