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Anti-social Media

“A quarter of under 24s will delete ALL social media channels one day.”

- Social Chain Data

This year has seen a number of blows to social media.

First, Instagram began experimenting with removing the like button - already with great effects on mental health. Then, Lush announced they were getting rid of their social channels, creating a single hashtag, #LUSHCommunity. Now designers have begun to rebel against colour-saturated Insta-experiences, exploring deliberately anti-Instagrammable aesthetics (as seen in new London restaurant Lucky Cat, whose dark interiors are intentionally unphotogenic). All this has taken place against a backdrop of a constant stream of anti-social media articles, the latest with Salesforce founder Marc Benioff likening Facebook use to cigarettes.

There is no question that we need to address our social media use (we’ve written a whole blog on digital wellbeing), but the recent stat from Social Chain, that a quarter of under 24s will delete ALL social media channels one day, is something that marketers and brand should not fear. As people learn and refine their social media use, platforms will become more actually social again.

Right now, more than a third of the global online population is on social media, including nine out of ten teens, 71% of which are using more than one platform [Pew Research Centre, 2018]. In fact, 16-34 year olds are on social platforms for twice as long as any other commercial media channel (including television, online video, newspapers and magazines) [Facebook Report, 2018].

From curated millennial Instagram aesthetics to the raw, unedited footage of TikTok, we have seen a kind of social media musical chairs take place over the past 20 years, with people constantly jumping from one platform to the next. The platform may vary with trends and ages (Facebook has long been a favourite of older generations, while 73% of under 25s are on Snap), but there is always a platform.

The idea that social media is something to be dropped misunderstands its true function. It’s not about brands creating content, although that is a bonus; it’s about communities. Humans are social creatures, and are constantly looking for ways to connect. ‘If you build it they will come’ has never been more accurate than when it comes to a platform through which humans can get together, with bonus points if it helps them do so creatively.

This is especially true for generations that have grown up around social media - the same people who confidently threaten its end. 60% of teens spend time with friends online each day (compared to 24% that see their friends in person), and 56% of UK and US Gen Z see social media as a platform for creative expression. Whether gaming with friends on Fortnite, or sharing videos on YouTube, social media has become an important part of the way we communicate with one another and, once found, it’s not something that can easily be taken away.

One day, people may finally leave Facebook (as they have been threatening to for years), and they may even leave Instagram - but for as long as the Internet exists, there will be platforms full of people. And, whatever they are, we’ll be there.

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