Drexel Professor Asta Zelenkauskaite on The Future of Social Media
It can be hard sometimes to remember a time before social media. Even many of those who grew up without social platforms (or even the internet) now have a habit of checking Facebook or Twitter several times a day. But will the social platforms of today still be around in three years? Five? A decade? Asta Zelenkauskaite, PhD, is a professor in Drexel University’s Department of Communication whose work focuses on how social media has changed the mass media landscape. Here, she discusses the future of social media, and how it will continue to change in the years to come.
To succeed in the future, platforms are going to have to adapt to the times
“The ones that can succeed are the ones who can keep up,” said Zelenkauskaite. Seems obvious, right? But it’s more than just jumping on the bandwagon of the latest trends. As Zelenkauskaite points out, social media platforms pop up and disappear all the time. For a platform to last in the long run, it’s going to have to be constantly innovating, both in its features and behind the scenes. According to Zelenkauskaite, that includes responding and adapting to issues like privacy concerns.
The future of social media depends on our devices
“There’s an interdependence on the media devices and content,” said Zelenkauskaite. There’s a reason platforms like Instagram exploded in popularity during the age of the smartphone. Our devices are now larger and screen-based, making them the perfect vehicle for image-based social media platforms. But imagine if “smart” flip phones made a comeback. Social media would have to change to compliment them.
Don’t count text out
Yes, social media is getting more image-based. But text isn’t going anywhere (aka we’re probably not getting rid of Twitter anytime soon). A large reason for that? People still want anonymity online. “If you want to stay anonymous, text allows for people to do that,” said Zelenkauskaite. So, while visual storytelling may seem to be taking over the online space, Zelenkauskaite predicts that we’ll still see specialized sites that allow for all types of communication, including text.
Online spaces will continue to be political hotbeds
“Russian trolls” may be the most well-known example of a foreign agent trying to meddle in the election process, but they’re hardly the only ones using the internet for this purpose. In fact, Zelenkauskaite thinks this is going to continue to be an issue all around the world. “These threats will continue and probably be even more important in the future, in both democratic and nondemocratic countries,” said Zelenkauskaite. “Online space isn’t bound to any geographical space.”
Facebook’s past indiscretions probably won’t be what sinks them
Facebook’s taken a lot of heat in the last year or two, but Zelenkauskaite doesn’t think that’s the main threat to Facebook’s social media dominance. After all, the privacy issues they wrestled with aren’t exclusive to that platform. But that doesn’t mean they’re safe! Instead, Zelenkauskaite thinks Facebook’s real issue will be attracting new users. “They have saturated, in some ways, their user access at this point,” said Zelenkauskaite. So, Zuckerberg has less to fear from bad press than he does younger users who don’t see the value in the platform.