I have a client who has an idea for a new social network. The concept is solid and the designs are done. Next must come the words and descriptors that will be the network's ultimate 'secret sauce' (that's how they talk in Silicon Valley). Where the world is already 'tweeting', 'pinning', 'checking-in', 'posting' and 'liking', what verbs can we change forever to get more users sharing their lives online? Or should we invent some new ones? Can we really hope to get millions of people proudly, if hypothetically, squizzing on their e-banks by 2014?
I would really, sincerely, love that, if only
for its ridiculousness. As a writing brief, this one is right up there with making up monsters. But do we honestly need another social network? Has anyone got the time? The idea of another little (invariably blue) icon lined up on my phone, ready for furtive consumption during the day,
is quite exhausting.
What I've learnt is that it's not
a question up for debate. From the all-new, all-inclusive MySpace (promisingly being revamped to the hilt by its new owners Specific
Media and Justin Timberlake)
to the plethora
of intentionally small, more 'exclusive' clubs, there
is a virtual storm of
new social networks brewing.
In Britain, social networking issues have come to dominate small talk to a point where they have probably overtaken the weather. And as with the weather, the tone is usually grumbling. "I'm leaving Facebook" and "I'm quitting Twitter" are standard openers. It's fairly obvious to anyone who has had a conversation with another person in almost any situation at all over the last couple of years that people are dissatisfied. But, given the all-consuming market share that Facebook has, can any competitor stand a chance?
There is a heck of a lot of research and money being pumped into social media at
the moment. Projections and predictions are flying willy-nilly, and everyone wants to know what's next. But the general consensus is that it's not another huge behemoth trying and failing to be all things to all people that we should be looking out for, but instead just a better one, or two, or three, or ten.
According to Wall Street analysts, there
has been a decline in American Facebook users lately in the influential younger demographic, who are moving to smaller sites. It seems to be a growing trend.
Twitter, too, has been subject to negative stories in the media for a while now — hacking, trolling and hoaxing allegedly
putting a lot of people off. So where are
they going? Instagram has overtaken Twitter on mobile devices in the US. Albeit that
it's owned by Facebook, the conclusion the number crunchers are drawing is that simpler, younger, less corporate social networks are suddenly looking very attractive as more effective and considerably less hazardous and embarrassing ways of recording and sharing your life. I, for one, completely concur.
Sorry, did I just say sharing? I meant squizzing, of course.
Henrietta Thompson is an editorial consultant and curator.
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