Story 2014-05-05 3JY Social Networking Enters the Age of Angst

Social Networking Enters the Age of Angst

in internet on (#3JY)
story imageThis is either the age of social networking, or it's not. It's either the future, or it's already a has-been. What the heck is going on?

Forbes has printed a thoughtful article on why Google Plus has failed to thrive . The Atlantic has written a piece suggesting Twitter is on the decline . Facebook's interest among teens seems to be slowing, while their "page reach" is down by 50% .

So, what's going on? Is it because, post- Snowden , everyone is tired of being spied on? Has everyone moved on to cooler platforms? Has everyone ditched social networking and gone back to Usenet ? Is it possible, as one author suggests, that privacy is now overtaking sharing on the 'Net? Or has everyone just found something more productive to do, like work in the garden?

[Note: this article has been cross-posted nowhere else. :) Want to comment? Here's the place.]
Reply 16 comments

Gah! (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-05 04:59 (#1CC)

There might be some good information buried in that Forbes article, but reading it is like trying to read someone Tweeting a novel.

Re: Gah! (Score: 2, Insightful)

by on 2014-05-05 07:49 (#1CE)

That Forbes article flows like honey compared to BBC News online article. By policy, every single sentence is a separate paragraph. This shows a disgusting disregard for all the principles of good writing that I was taught back when the UK had an education system that actually taught you something, and shows either the same disregard for the readers or is simply patronising to them.

Anyway, back on topic, I think a lot of it is simply fashion. Is there any reason to think that facebook or twitter will follow a different-shaped popularity curve from myspace's from last decade? I can't pretend to be an expert in any of the individual social media platforms, as I've never been a member of any of them, never seeing them as just stupid flashes in the pan pandering to people who weren't using the internet back in the 1980, and the web in the early 90s, say, and who want strokes from as many different directions as possible. And like other fashions, when you see your kid brother wearing the same types of clothes as you, and listening to the same music, you cringe and find anything exclusive and new to differentiate yourself from the likes of him. So your next hang-out was a pub, rather than the multi-story carpark. The bottom line is that both actually smell of piss, but you're briefly happy while you're there with like-minded individuals. Of course, as seen in platforms closer to home, it's just as easy to get fed up of the platform by it changing under your feet. I stopped listening to some metal radio stations when all they played was industrial sequenced synth shit^W^W^Wmetal. There's little reason to think that the users have any more loyalty to the platforms than the platforms have respect for the users. So in some ways, it's a non-story, as it's so predictable.

(Bryan: feature request - when looking at an prior post linked to from the mail messages, can it be given a "parent" link, and the option to see its whole subtree?)

(And fuck beta!)

Re: Gah! (Score: 2, Informative)

by on 2014-05-05 08:37 (#1CF)

can it be given a "parent" link, and the option to see its whole subtree?
Ya, I've been meaning to add that.

Re: Gah! (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-06 09:03 (#1E0)

The comment preview now shows an abbreviated tree (the comment + it's direct decedents.)

Click the story link for the full tree (obviously.)

Re: Gah! (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-06 03:08 (#1DR)

Fancy meeting you here :)

I think you're right. These 'social networking' sites are just hangouts like any other, subject to fads and people outgrowing 'em. The Hotwheels and Beanie Babies of the internet. Before Facebook and Twitter it was MySpace and before that AOL and Prodigy, and before that it was BBSs, and before that it was snailmail clubs and round-robins. No doubt cavemen had their own hangouts, equally ephemeral.

Which radio stations? I *like* industrial sequenced synth shit. :D

Maybe this says more about journalists? (Score: 2, Interesting)

by on 2014-05-05 09:08 (#1CH)

Who's to say? I concur that G+ isn't all that it was cracked up to be, and some of their decisions - like making any potential Youtube commenter a G+ member and then lauding the 'huge growth in users' - have been circumspect. As the Forbes article points out, the G+ thing was run by an ex-Microsofter who probably came pre-installed with that kind of crappy business tactic in his genetic code.

That said, all the pissing on current platforms might just reflect falling page-views in major media and the need to post/publish inflammatory articles that drive page views.

Anyway, given there doesn't seem to be - in my opinion - any alternative platforms out there, I don't see anyplace for people to 'go to.' Unless we've just grown tired of talking with strangers over the Internet. Not impossible.

Re: Maybe this says more about journalists? (Score: 2, Insightful)

by on 2014-05-05 12:28 (#1CP)

Then again, I think one of the reason's why I like Slashdot, Pipedot, etc. is to talk with interesting strangers over the internet.

My personal discomfort with social networking stems from the fact that there appears to be a great agenda to monetize my participation and, as part of that, to link my participation to all sorts of other things thus making me look over my shoulder about how comments in one setting might be used against me in another. I think there is a great market for the exchange of ideas on the internet whether through community forums or online courses or whatever, but I would like the mandate and reach of such community's to remain narrow.

Re: Maybe this says more about journalists? (Score: 2, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-05 17:41 (#1D6)

Not just the privacy aspects, but when everywhere is begging for likes so they can spam you on social networks, the appeal dies. I think there is a market for a social network that doesn't allow businesses to participate.

Re: Maybe this says more about journalists? (Score: 2, Insightful)

by on 2014-05-06 03:15 (#1DT)

Good points. I also like Slashdot, Pipedot, SoylentNews for making it *painless* to talk to interesting strangers over the internet. It's not *work*. Facebook is such a pain to parse, such a poor work-to-gain ratio, that it's not worth the bother (I've regretfully abandoned a group that's fairly important to me because the group owner migrated us to Facebook, and I can't stand slogging through that mess every day). And I could deal with a little monetization if it didn't negatively impact me as a user, but this "like" everything in sight has diluted the concept to "barely noticed in passing".

Oh yeah... Howdy, stranger!

Re: Maybe this says more about journalists? (Score: 1, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-05 14:16 (#1CX)

I'm sure it's just the inevitable saturation and loss of novelty, but I'd also like to think that a big part of it is that Facebook and Google+ both demand real user names, and people have slowly realized that they don't quite LIKE doing all their private communication in public, under their own name.

It's really distressing just how LITTLE complaining one sees about the "real name" policies, which strip the Internet of many of its key values, including "talking with strangers".

Re: Maybe this says more about journalists? (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-05 21:43 (#1DF)

The new generation doesn't care about real names. Hear about that new app - currently the hottest craze on earth - where you get to a new city on some business trip and it helps link you up with people of the age and profile you choose? It's crazy - like, "let's create an app that helps people get raped and killed." The new generation doesn't care. They will when the shit hits the fan.

Re: Maybe this says more about journalists? (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-05 21:45 (#1DG)

It's crazy - like, "let's create an app that helps people get raped and killed."
Anything that enables face-to-face social interaction could be described as "help[ing] people get raped and killed." It's kind of silly to see that as the most important thing about the app.

Re: Maybe this says more about journalists? (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-06 03:19 (#1DV)

Neither Google nor Facebook has my real name... and who's to say my real name isn't those two apparently-random words? I mean, seriously, yonder is the excellent example of Moon Unit, are they going to deny that as a real name?? Now tell me any other two words are not a real name, eh?

Re: Maybe this says more about journalists? (Score: 1, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-05 22:44 (#1DJ)

This is why every device I own has its own gmail and g+ account. Way I figure it is that if I am forced to have a google account just for the ability to download an apk from google then it does not need to be linked to my ages old gmail. I hope they like meeting my phone, tablet, media box...

The requirement for a g+ account to vote in google play has killed the rating system. Looks like they now cull negative comments so people post 5 ratings dripping with sarcasm. See Samsung Push. A system broken and twisted.

Re: Maybe this says more about journalists? (Score: 3, Insightful)

by on 2014-05-05 23:14 (#1DM)

Platforms? To network over the Internet with people? That's about ALL there is!

What isn't surprising is that these things are dying, it's that they ever got so damn popular to begin with. Facebook offers nothing that hasn't been around in free and open forms for years without locking you into a single company's walled garden. A list of features and corresponding preexisting services:

Messaging ->E-mail
Newsfeed/Wall ->Blog
Photos ->Webserver/FTP/various server applications for gallery generation
Groups ->Web fora, usenet...
Chat ->IRC, XMPP, and other often more closed forms.
Event Planning ->shared calendars (though I'll admit, Facebook did at least implement this in a more easily accessible way than most, at least when they first rolled it out).

Most of what Facebook has to offer is a UI slapped over a bunch of preexisting utilities, and the cost is that they get all of your data, and that as long as you're relying on their services you can't simultaneously easily network with people who aren't without using redundant services to talk to people on different platforms. Well, for one, some people (and I've no delusions that it's "most") are just simply getting fed up with their data being slurped up and used to sell ads to target at them, or worse, funneled to law enforcement/employers. For another, the simple fact that there are people you may want to network with that aren't on Facebook means you'll need to engage in some of these alternatives for the various services Facebook offers. THAT seems to be a big weak point for these closed private platforms, because it's what trains people who either never learned to use the alternatives before getting on Facebook, or who forgot about them in the frenzy to jump on the next big thing. When you realize you can have everything Facebook offers without giving anything up for it at all, and often getting what amounts to more freedom to craft your own UI to streamline it all if you choose to, it kind of makes you wonder why you would do otherwise.

For the matter of G+ specifically, I think it mostly just has a lot more competition in the form of Facebook than Facebook had in the form of Myspace, and that G+ doesn't really offer enough that significantly distinguishes it. Myspace, if we can all remember back, was an absolute mess of a site, and half the time when you came upon a person's profile, music would immediately start playing, there'd be flash elements strewn about, and often broken scripting due largely to just how much Myspace allowed users to customize their profiles. And beyond even the user-created mess, the site itself just never had a very friendly UI, and the privacy settings were all but not there at all. Facebook's arrival to your average Myspace user of the day was like the coming of the Messiah with how many fixes it made and features it brought, even if it was just yet another corporate walled garden. And also, if we can remember back to 2004, when Facebook hit the scene, it had no ads, it was only for college students, and only people at your school could see your profile at all unless you specifically messaged with them (or at least exchanged pokes). They gradually added the more and more insidious aspects of the site, and relied on the growing ubiquity of the site to keep people from bucking them off, and for the most part, it's been a winning strategy, though it almost certainly is unsustainable in the long run. Google+ has none of this to offer, and unlike the other alternatives for talking to people not on your social network of choice (email, irc, xmpp, etc), it's only useful for networking with people on Google+, meaning that you'll end up having your Facebook to network with most people, your G+ to network with people who somehow thing Google is great but Facebook is the devil, and STILL having to maintain an email account at the very least for those that don't use social networking. That's a lot of timeshare to expect from the average user, and it's just not going to happen. Google+ will continue to be used by nobody but Ingress players until they shutter it, and expecting otherwise by this point would be silly.