Social media forecast: Sunny with a chance of rain
Exploring the good, the bad, and the ugly possibilities of our digital future.
The world around us is shifting drastically over the past few months. As people continue to distance socially, the realm of social media seems to be booming with new and exciting innovations geared towards helping people supplement their social relationships.
In this article, I share some of my thoughts on how social media might evolve and the type of content, trends, and changes we might see in the coming years.
1. Digital Ethics & Awareness
With rising news coverage about concerns surrounding popular social platforms such as security issues with applications like TikTok and Zoom, there is now an increased emphasis on understanding and generating awareness about digital ethics, privacy, and data security.
Additionally, movies such as The Social Dilemma have made the public more aware of the dangerous human impact of intentional design decisions that go into crafting these platforms. This renewed focus on digital rights combined with new social paradigms emerging out of current times makes me wonder: what might the future of social media look like?
Promotional image from the 2020 documentary “The Social Dilemma”
2. Videos = Views
Video-based content sharing is expected to boom — in fact, Forbes estimates that a million minutes (17,000 hours) of video content will cross global IP networks every single second by 2021. Since video content generates 600% more interactions on Facebook, constitutes 82% of internet traffic, and increases user engagement times by 88% on websites, it will certainly be an indispensable aspect in the future of social media.
Video content generates 600% more interactions on Facebook, constitutes 82% of internet traffic, and increases user engagement times by 88% on websites
3. Ephemeral Content May Stay
Another trend that seems to be on the rise is ephemeral content, i.e. allowing users to upload “stories” that disappear after a certain amount of time. Impermanence is seen as a novelty and tends to be highly regarded as content is fleeting. More and more platforms are adding in story features after Snapchat introduced this feature back in 2013.
Since then, Instagram, Facebook, and (most recently) LinkedIn have entered this space: there is a running joke called Will Now Have Stories, which is described as “a Photoshop meme featuring pictures of various objects with “Stories” icons from various social media platforms superimposed on top of them.”
The Will Now Have Stories meme seen on Twitter and Facebook
4. New Forms of Marketing
Now an established form of online marketing, influencer marketing seems to be booming: in fact, this industry is estimated to reach $15 billion in valuation by 2022. However, it is important to note that this approach relies heavily on evoking compulsive buying behaviors, particularly from younger audiences to drive sales.
Examples of influencer marketing taken from Afluencer
In addition to this, marketing strategies that utilize hyper localization and personalization might also be on the rise in the coming years. Often times, these gamifications can be furthered by dark design: patterns that reduce the control individuals have over how their private information is distributed, stored and used.
Dark Patterns is one such website that sheds light on some common malpractices by providing examples and categorizing certain tricks that are intentionally deceiving for the benefit of the company at the expense of users.
Dark design: patterns that reduce the control individuals have over how their private information is distributed, stored and used.
Video on How Dark Patterns Trick You Online
5. A Fact Check on Information Credibility
The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2016 is a prime example of how user data can be farmed to create psychological profiles and influence societal views on large scale issues like political sentiments. Ideally, ensuring the veracity of claims and information circulated on social networking sites will attain greater priority in times to come.
Facebook and Twitter have made some headway by including fact check messages under posts that may contain disputed information about the election, but there is still a lot of work to be done in taking measures that are proactive instead of reactive. We can expect to see stricter laws that help regulate the extent to which companies are able to gather and handle personal data on users.
Twitter’s fact check message displayed at the top of a tweet
6. The Advent of Augmented Reality
With advancements in technology and upcoming techniques for content creation, we can expect to see interesting implementations of Mixed Reality (such as taking Augmented Reality lenses that allow users to choose background and filter effects a step further) and 3D components that open up a world of new possible interactions.
People have increasingly turned to online shopping given the ongoing pandemic — from virtually trying on eyewear and clothes to try-before-you-buy furniture, AR has unlocked a whole new paradigm to how people shop and interact with e-commerce platforms. What started as a means of replacing traditional in-store try on experiences is forecast to reach over 95 million users in the US alone by 2022.
Amazon’s ‘View in Your Room’ feature that uses AR for virtual furniture trials
Given the increasing number of people that now own smartphones — 4.78 billion to be exact — expecting to see an increase in AR implementations in times to come doesn’t seem as far off as it once did.
Apple’s latest advancements in LiDAR have also made waves in how this move might impact depth perception as well as detection and recognition of scenes and objects. These features will enable smoother, more accurate, and realistic implementations as compared to how users currently experience Augmented Reality.
7. Prioritizing Accessibility
As someone passionate about inclusive design, I like to think that the future of social media will be one that celebrates diversity and consciously focuses on making platforms more accessible and welcoming for all communities.
Consistently providing subtitles and transcripts for all video content, either by making it an uploading requirement or by generating it automatically, would greatly improve the user experience for hard of hearing and deaf users. For people that use screen readers, social platforms can become more inclusive by adding alternative text in place of images and arranging content in a linear, clearly defined structure.
By taking steps towards making speech- and keyboard-only use options more commonplace and striving to use good color contrasts, the future of social media can also better include people with physical and/or motor disabilities and low vision respectively.
As someone passionate about inclusive design, I like to think that the future of social media will be one that celebrates diversity.
Educational material from Microsoft’s Inclusive Design framework
We are at a turning point in the digital revolution. While it may not be possible to predict what the future of social media might look like with absolute certainty, what we can do is to continue pushing for a better digital future that safeguards our online presence. By keeping ourselves educated, spreading awareness, and demanding cyber reforms where needed, we can be responsible digital citizens that help build welcoming virtual communities.
I’m a product designer with a background in Cognitive Science and Psychology. Friends and coworkers tend to describe me as curious, perseverant, and team-oriented. 𝗠𝗶𝘀𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻: Building equitable experiences, empowering communities, and striving for social good. 𝗖𝗼𝗺𝗺𝘂𝗻𝗶𝘁𝘆: 💌 Growing the largest 501(c)(3) intercollegiate volunteer community at 𝘋𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘭𝘰𝘱 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘎𝘰𝘰𝘥 🎨 Starting an accessible design community with educational and interactive events at 𝘍𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘍𝘪𝘨𝘮𝘢 💉 Creating a platform to track COVID-19 vaccine distribution management at 𝘉𝘭𝘰𝘤𝘬𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘪𝘯 𝘢𝘵 𝘉𝘦𝘳𝘬𝘦𝘭𝘦𝘺 𝗪𝗼𝗿𝗸: 🧘🏽♀️ Leading design for a soon to be launched VR mindfulness experience at the 𝘖𝘤𝘶𝘭𝘶𝘴 𝘚𝘵𝘢𝘳𝘵 𝘗𝘳𝘰𝘨𝘳𝘢𝘮 🔊 Prototyping an assistive technology app for children with complex communication needs at 𝘜𝘕𝘐𝘊𝘌𝘍 🎮 Designing the Sims and Bejeweled mobile gameplay as a game design intern at 𝘌𝘭𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘳𝘰𝘯𝘪𝘤 𝘈𝘳𝘵𝘴 𝗛𝗼𝗯𝗯𝗶𝗲𝘀: Singing opera, photorealistic 3D modelling, exploring sleep science, writing on Medium, and creating educational resources