Ten years ago, social media was a niche hobby limited to college dorm rooms and indie bands. By 2016, there are expected to be more than 2 billion social media users - over 25% of the world population. With that exponential growth, we’ve seen social media evolve from a fad into a paradigm shift in the way we communicate, helping spark everything from fashion trends to political revolutions. In the future, as the remaining 55% of the world’s population is brought online and technology continues to grow in bounds, the use of social media will be globally ubiquitous and seamlessly integrated into nearly every activity.
Anyone on social media has already constructed a 'digital self' of personal data - whether by crafting a personal profile or sharing content from everyday moments. In the future, we will see dramatic growth in the quantity of content being created, the amount of personal data available, and the decision-making power of that data. Predictive analytics will harness these data treasure troves, helping us cut through the massive amounts of content we collectively produce to hone in on the few pieces we actually want to see, and tailoring powerful experiences specific to our individual interests. The result will be a hyper-personalized social media stream, giving billions of consumers the content we want, at the time we want, from the people and brands we want. This will be a double-edged sword for brands, requiring them to to spread their messages in a genuinely interesting and useful way, while allowing them to precisely target the exact niche they’re speaking to.
The explosion of social media has fundamentally changed our deeply ingrained social behaviors. Many of us now find community and validation online more than in-person - our most trusted circles may be virtual communities of individuals we’ve never physically met. As online communications becomes increasingly immersive and ‘life-like’, we may find face-to-face interactions become more of a novelty than the norm. As more and more of life runs through these hyper-real virtual communications, so will the behaviors and decisions that mark everyday life. Imagine shopping a virtual store with a friend, trying things on your personal avatar and chatting in real time - all while you’re both on the go in different places.
Social media has already dramatically leveled the playing field of influence, with ‘trending’ topics sparking everything from fashion trends to political revolutions. As connectivity and bandwidth increases around the world, social media will continue to diversify and democratize the content consumed on a global scale. Points in time - whether breaking news or product launches - will be covered live a sea of eyewitnesses streaming sight, sound, touch and more. The Periscopes of the future will seamlessly knit these together into one single immersive stream, enabling viewers worldwide to virtually experience any event in real time. For better or worse, the world will feel like it’s right in front of us.
Social media has been one of the greatest phenomena of the last decade. However, some experts predict social media as a stand-alone concept will fade away, instead fusing with other communications and content to become a mass media form. Standalone apps and websites like Facebook and Twitter may become irrelevant, making way for a connectedness that more closely resembles electricity - so seamlessly integrated into our surroundings that we only notice when it’s not there. Instead of keyboards and smartphones, we may have voice and finger control and the ability to share thoughts and sensations, with person-to-person interactions almost resembling telepathic communication.