(Image: Movie poster from the 1985 award winning film Back To The Future, directed by Robert Zemeckis, and starring Michael J. Fox).
So, where is the future of social media heading?
To look towards the future of social media, one has to take a back-to-the-future approach – going back to where social networking began, and looking at how it has evolved. According to this timeline, social media started to take off after Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger launched Wikipedia on January 15, 2001. Wikipedia quickly became a primary source for information amongst internet surfers worldwide, soon reaching 365,000,000 readers by 2009. Wikipedia became very popular amongst students, academics, lawyers and judges, and even by politicians – Wikipedia was a focal point in the 2008 U.S. election campaign.
From the year 2002 onwards, the growth of social media and networks grew tremendously – popular networks like LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, Youtube and Twitter came to life between 2002 and 2007. Each of these popular networks developed their own niche – LinkedIn being a professional network, Youtube specializing in video sharing, and Twitter being a micro-blogging platform. Facebook and MySpace quickly became very popular for supporting multiple features – such as instant chatting, video sharing, and the ability to create fan pages.
With the growth in technology also increasing at a rapid rate, these popular social networks quickly adapted. Many mobile network carriers gave people the ability to send text messages to a specified number, and post them as status updates to Facebook and Twitter. Facebook reached 1 billion users in 2012, Twitter reaching 500 million registered users as of 2012, and Google+ reaching 500 million users – showing how rapid social networks are growing. Correlations between rapid growth in mobile and smartphone technology, and number of social media users, can be drawn – the number of mobile subscriptions reached 6 billion in 2011, penetrating about 87% of the global population.
Along with the growth of social networks and the technology it is used on, social media has become a significant player in emergency management. Instead of making this post too long, I decided to make a separate post about social media and emergency management called Social Media – A Matter of Life and Death.
With all the good uses that social media provides us, there are some people that use it maliciously. Lalit Modi – Best known for his stint as the Chairman, Commissioner of the Indian Premier League, and the Chairman of the Champions League, made false allegations of match-fixing through Twitter against Chris Cairns – the former New Zealand cricket all-rounder. Unfortunately, social media is also rampant with cyber-bullying incidents – one case that stood out for me recently was when Amanda Todd, a teen from British Columbia (Canada), was cruelly tormented online through social media, and ended up taking her own life. The misuse of social media can be damaging to the point where some actions can be fatal – this must be stopped at all costs and the perpetrators face harsh punishments.
With the rapid growth in technology, economic uncertainty, copyright issues (e.g S.O.P.A, P.I.P.A, A.C.T.A in 2011/2012), identity theft and cyber-bullying issues, making a concrete and solid prediction is not exactly a trivial task. Here is an open-ended list of my predictions for social media:
- The volume of social media messages, between mobile devices, will surpass the number of text messages sent worldwide by 2016.
- Social media will continue to be a force in fighting for freedom , especially against brutal regimes – like the one being ran by Bashar al-Assad.
- Cyber-bullying via social media will continue to be a concern, with yet more lives lost. Stricter rules and regulations will be bought in to give cyber bullies harsh penalties; however, this needs to be thought out carefully, so freedoms of speech isn’t negatively affected.
- Cases of defamation will increase, as a result of frivolous claims on social media.
- Within the next 5 years, the combined number of Facebook and Twitter users will come close to 3 billion users – connecting the world together even more. This is my personal prediction based on past and current growth trends of both networks.
- Text messaging (sending S.M.S’es) will be replaced by Facebook updates and private messages, and Twitter tweets within 5 years.
- The use of social media will continue to become more critical in journalism, online and offline media.
- Within 10 years, the first Facebook update and Twitter tweet will be sent from outer space – most likely the moon.
- Many brick-and-mortar businesses will start to embrace social media more, in terms of marketing their business to their target markets.
- Social media will become a more vital area of teaching in universities and educational institutes worldwide – especially in information technology, marketing and commerce, computer science, and business studies.
If you have any predictions you would like to share, feel free to leave them in a comment below. I am interested in what people out there think will happen in the future, in regard to social media .