The utopian promise of social media was founded on the sharing of ideas and respect for the individual.
In the not too distant past, social media was embraced by brands as a conduit to engage with users in hopes of creating a personal relationship. Diaper brands embraced mommy bloggers, food brands created recipe sharing websites, Facebook created the wall where users posted enhanced digital profiles of their exploits and lives. Titans of corporations envisioned social media as a way to reduce advertising costs because in their view, social media was free. Free in the sense of no media expenditures, content was provided by the users and as a bonus it came with a rudimentary form of ROI based on likes, opens and click-through rates.
As these social media platforms matured and gained more users, it became obvious to their founders and investors that these platforms had to be monetized in order to generate a profit, as well as pay for operating costs and expansion.
Social media’s metamorphosis into advertising channels
Utopian promises only go so far in the realm of social media platforms. Rich with user data, these platforms started to add sponsored posts, native advertising, and a basket of other misnomers used to describe paid advertising. Now the premise of shared ideas turned into the sharing of advertising for legal services, shampoo, and pet food, based on your user profile and personal data. This became the gold mine that turned college kids into billionaires and forever changed the face of advertising.
Also along the way, we, as users of these platforms, lost sight of the fact that much of the content being posted was unregulated either by editorial or advertising standards. The speed at which these changes were happening outpaced the decades-old FCC and consumer guidelines.
These channels also offered the cloche to be anonymous with these postings, further blurring the lines between truth and opinion.
The lost art of conversation and respect for others
We have become desensitized by the amount and type of content spewing from the pipes of these platforms. As our callouses grew, the politeness of personal conversation was lost. It became far too easy to ridicule and criticize shielded by our digital personas, knowing we could unfriend or block any thought or opinion that challenged our viewpoint or made us feel uncomfortable. Our loss of sociability is hindering our ability to understand and reach agreement. Surrounding ourselves with like-minded people does not accomplish the need for understanding different viewpoints and reaching a compromise that is beneficial for all concerned.