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Oct 30, 2021
It’s official: Mark Zuckerberg wants to take over the world. Not our physical world, of course, but an imagined future world composed entirely of virtual and augmented reality spaces called “the metaverse”. After a disastrous few weeks for the PR folks at Facebook, Zuckerberg announced that Facebook, the holding company, will now be known as Meta, with Facebook as a subsidiary. The name change is meant to broaden Zuckerberg’s horizons beyond just social media. Now, he envisions pioneering the construction of the metaverse, which he imagines will immerse us in digital worlds beyond our wildest imaginations.
All of this may sound familiar. At the beginning of the social media revolution (which now enters its twilight), technocrats promised a similarly idyllic world of digital bells and whistles, one that would foster strong humanistic connections around the globe. Looking back at such high-minded promises now, it is astonishing to see how the years have proved them wrong. Even as the number of social media users grows, an ever-expanding tribe of disillusioned humanity is turning its back on divisive, data-hungry, privacy-shredding social media platforms. Increasingly, people are turning to outdoor community activities and privacy-friendly app alternatives. Read on in today’s Daily Dose to see what’s beyond social media.
DRAWING THE DIGITAL LINE
1 - How the Cookie Crumbles
The world wants its privacy back, and the social media giants are not happy about it, since they make much of their money by selling personal data to advertisers. Top of their list of worries is a European Union law that has put control of tracking tools, or cookies, back in the hands of users. The ruling could also spread to other territories. With millions opting out of putting their personal data in the hands of Facebook and other platforms, targeted ads are failing their objective. But that’s not all. Changes to Apple’s new iOS, which allows users to say no to tracking, are also preventing ads from reaching many would-be consumers.
2 - Burnout Blues
What happens after you watch hundreds of hours of home cooking and yoga posing while trying to have a life and find love online? Experts call it “social-media fatigue.” Andrea Vera, a humanitarian worker from Mexico, calls it tedium. "I was very active on dating apps during the first months of lockdown, but after a few months it just got boring. So I stopped using them," she tells OZY. "Now, I spend more time going out to the parks, doing other activities." She is not alone. According to an international survey conducted by Brandwatch, the number of people talking about social-media fatigue increased by 41% in the first 10 months of 2020 compared to the same period in the previous year. Another reason people are dropping the platforms? They say they make you dumber.
3 - Death, Taxes... and Ads
Aware of people shutting down their laptops and putting their phones away as they run outside, advertising firms have already pivoted: They are bringing outdoor campaigns back. But gone are the days when a company could simply pay someone to wear a sandwich board and stand on the street corner. The post-COVID-19 street advertising world promises expanded digital and interactive offerings and will even employ facial recognition technology so the content on billboards can match the demographics of onlookers. Do you see what I see?
1 - Pandemic Boost
This isn’t to say that users are abandoning social media in massive droves. Many platforms are doing better than ever — and they have pandemic-induced lockdowns to thank. As soon as our doors shuttered at the start of the pandemic, the gates of our Facebook, TikTok and Insta feeds opened so wide that no one seemed able to shut them. Social media use increased 13% in the past year alone. For many, the addictive platforms became a lifeline, a forum for community, entertainment, news and even social protest. “In the pandemic we’re constantly looking for that social stimulation,” Kellan Terry, director of communications at Brandwatch told Recode. “Social media somewhat filled the gap but not wholly.”
2 - Authentic Communities, Authentic Profits?
Advertisers and marketers are realizing there is a unique profit motive in investing in previously underinvested communities. Minority communities are typically more tight-knit, which makes social media influencers even more critical in targeting customers at times when people are spending less. “Where minority influencers have an advantage is their connections,” says Dakari Dunning, community manager at Sparkloft Media, a social media agency that runs an influencer program. “Black influencers have much closer and personal connections to their audience and that gives them a really big leg up.” Dunning says that in each of the last three campaigns he’s worked on, the client or the strategist has emphasized "the surging popularity of Black social and how large of a market and how much potential is there." That’s why marketers are focusing all the way down to nano-influencers (1,000 to 5,000 followers), who, research shows, generate 85 percent higher engagement than influencers with 100,000 followers.
As we all know, the pandemic has caused financial mayhem, with millions of small businesses forced to shut down (think of the cafés situated in or near office buildings that were empty for over a year). But there are some who have spied opportunities in the changes in peoples’ social habits. In the U.S., startups are experiencing a great revival. Businesses that managed to adapt to new consumer trends, like the independent retail giant Etsy, are going strong.
BEYOND THE TECH GIANTS
1 - Facebook Without Facebook
Still not ready to quit, but worried about all that data-collecting and tracking? Don’t despair. An army of startups has been developing some pretty cool alternatives to the traditional giants to protect your privacy as you socialize online. First stop is Diaspora*, a kind of decentralized Facebook in which no single entity owns the platform. Rather, it is made up of a network of independent nodes, called “pods”, which are hosted by individuals or institutions. This way, privacy is built into Diaspora*, unlike mainstream centralized social medias.
2 - Jumbo
Despite your best efforts and warnings, most of your friends and family are still on Facebook. Every click and post is monitored and analyzed to feed Zuckerberg’s algorithm, right? While not a social media replacement per se, Jumbo can help you rest assured that those among your network who can’t quit Twitter are able to continue to use it safely. The app notifies users what information of theirs is being shared, and with which websites. It also allows you to erase that data, and social media posts, and to control what information you want to share in the future. Even better? Jumbo doesn’t store any of your user details. Now go tell mom.
3 - Yubo
French startup Yubo may be the Instagram of the future, especially with younger people keen to keep a close hold on their privacy and digital safety. The app, targeted at the under-25 market, offers options to broadcast live streamings and join like-minded users. Two more reasons why this newcomer is already proving a hit? First, Yubo’s data collection and privacy policies are spelled-out and easy to understand. Second, the platform separates users into two age groups and prevents those under 18 from interacting with adults. That’s a relief for parents everywhere and a roadmap for how to safely make friends online.
Watch Take on America
San Francisco Asian-American Millennials confront today’s most pressing issues
1 - Quote of the Day
“It is no longer enough to automate information flows about us; the goal now is to automate us.”
- Shoshana Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism
2 - What's Your Take On It?
Know any good alternatives to mainstream social media? Is the future all doom and gloom or do you see promise in Zuckerberg’s metaverse? Share your thoughts by shooting us an email at email@example.com!
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