Where are the folks going next: The present and future of social networking

The next big idea in social networking is the application that finds friends of friends near you, giving you an opportunity to meet them in real time. The idea is a disaster ab initio. The whole idea of social networking is to prevent people from meeting each other, to create a screen persona so awesome that all friends just shrivel and wither away, to light the fire of jealousy and to keep it stoking with every post and tweet. Making people meet will wean them away from the screen, causing loss to the business and will only lead to the bursting of the bubble.

Before diving further into the world of social media, let us first cover our flanks – are there any challengers who can pip the social media networks in the enar future?

The game is to keep them hooked. But there are people who are not yet in the trap (believe me, it is true). Most of these ‘others’ are still stuck to the idiot box – to the never ending soaps. The approach of the soap writers is simple – create a circular story around adultery, and put it in a loop. There is no way the viewer will be able to get out of it. It is something like what the geeks dread in computer programming, or like the mazes of the old times. But these soap junkies are from the older generation, and not growing in numbers.

Where do books, movies and theatre fit in?

Books have a great future – as status symbols for the rich, as decorations for the spare drawing room that classy people call study, as snob accessory for the intellectuals to bang each other with (physically or with quotes – the effect is the same) and for being kept in the umpteen libraries that were created in the last generation. But, and this is important, people are actually not reading books – as in spending their time with it. So, they do not pose any challenge what so ever. In any case until they find a way to limit a book to 140 characters before they can even begin to think of challenging the social networks. (Here ‘characters’ means alphabets, including blank spaces, and not the heroes, the knights, the villains, the Chinamen, the inspector, the…)

Movies are part-time – side business – they do not need complete, full time involvement. They will survive, along with the reading of gossip columns and page three of newspapers and the occasional dining out.

Theatre is dead – I introduced theatre in the discussion just to sound classy. (To sound classier, I could have talked about classical music, ballet or opera – but that would have exposed me as a sham, it was not worth the risk.)

There are only two serious challenges to social networking – sex and gaming. In both the cases the social networks are trying to ‘sleep with the enemy’. The idea is to promote ‘sex-appeal’ and gossip as an alternative to real sex (and here I am not referring to pornography, which does not exist, so we will not discuss it). This suits the modern male and female very much, thank you. Real relationships are so cumbersome to maintain, so time consuming, so draining, so messy, that flirting on the social network is, in fact, a good option.

As for gaming, light, addictive gaming is on the Facebook-type platforms already – it is the ‘heavy-metal’ gaming of the addicts that poses a threat. But with careful and constant vilification campaigns against it, promoted through the agency of parents and schools, that the threat can be nixed in the bud. Something like the anti-smoking campaign. There are signs that it is succeeding – I see less and less of gaming fanatics around me these days.

Social networking includes videos (you tube), pictures (facebook, flicker) and text (micro-blogging of Facebook and Twitter). In that sense it is a mutli-media attack on the senses (or whatever remains of it). It seduces the ego – making it seem that it is you who is in control, who is creating the content, who is making people sit up and think, who is the one at the centre of the universe. Moreover, the tools that it gives – cut-and-paste quotes, edit your pictures, edit out bad comments, fit yourself into ‘frames’ created by applications…the whole industry is like the cosmetics industry, working hard to make you look awesome.

There seems to be no getting away from the fact that we live in the age of social networking. The few, mutually exclusive, platforms that rule the roost at the moment are having it good. The wanna-bes’ are burning the midnight oil to find the next big idea, and upstage them. For them, here is a ‘take-away’ from the above – pander to the ego of the individual, and he will be hooked. The advertisers will follow, and thou shalt be rolling in the…er…in whatever the rich roll in.

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(All cartoons in this post are taken from social network sites/blogs on the net.)

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About Abhishek

I will let the blog speak for itself...or, at times, for me. View all posts by Abhishek

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