18th May, Facebook goes public. 16th August, Facebook shares hit all time low. 4th September, Facebook shares hit new all time low…
These days, people can’t get enough of the Facebook IPO drama, eyes glued to the NASDAQ exchange like it’s a Magic 8 ball foretelling the future of the internet economy so tightly wrapped up in social media. But the problem with staring at giants is that you sometimes forget to watch where you’re going.
Perhaps the more interesting question isn’t “What is the future without Facebook?” but instead “What’s been lurking in its shadows?” Because like most cultural trends, Facebook was never going to be around forever. Just like MySpace, Hi5, Friends Reunited and Friendster faded away, it was only ever a matter of time until Facebook would fall victim to people’s fickle attention spans. The fact it’s lasted this long is just testament to its deep psychological anchors – people love talking about themselves and each other. And that’s what Facebook has done so well – enabling people to do just that.
But what happens when the noise gets too loud, and more and more sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest become cluttered with the ceaseless chat, status updates and tweets of people you only half care about?
Could it be that 2012 is a year of cleansing, where people start to filter through and purge their accounts of the ‘acquaintances’ hoarded over the last few years when it was “cool” to have 1052 “friends”?
Could it be that quality relationships are what the new breed of social networks is all about?
It would appear so, as Google+ encourages the grouping of similar contacts into ‘circles’, making people more mindful and discerning about who they interact with online and why. People are looking for better ways of funneling content that matters and filtering out the crap. That is why Twitter’s #hashtag feature and Pinterest’s categories are so endearing.
Personally, if I were to put money on it, I’d say the future of the internet post-Facebook will see:
1) A shift from online to offline engagement
People will use social networks and apps to facilitate offline meet-ups and interaction rather than hanging out in virtual, walled spaces online.
2) More utilitarian networking models rather than being the end destination in itself
Social networks will be need-based and incorporated into larger projects rather than networking for the sake of it.
3) More niche networks
Social networks will have a focus or find ways of better filtering content people put on these sites.
But that’s just me.