A possible analogy to what happens in social media could be the world of television broadcasting: Facebook dominated everything, as did cable television, while multiplying new platforms digging different demographic niches. Maybe Snapchat and TikTok are MTV and Facebook is cable news. It might not be as much fun being on the cable news, but it’s arguably a more stable business in the long run. There will always be older people and they will always be interested in current affairs and politics. While youth culture will be forever fickle, as the rise and fall of MTV has shown.
The question is whether anyone can threaten Facebook’s status as a hub of civic and community life online. Youth-centric platforms will struggle to convince older users without turning off younger ones, and may also struggle to gain support from institutional users such as local governments who are already linked to Facebook. A site like Reddit, with a die-hard user base of people with niche interests, might struggle to win over “normies” users who want more of a generalized, laid-back social media experience.
Facebook may never be everything for everyone again, and it’s a reasonable bet to think that avant-garde youth culture is forever lost to other platforms, but what it does canning is powerful and will not be as easy to dislodge.
Conor Sen is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist and the founder of Peachtree Creek Investments. He has contributed to Atlantic and Business Insider and resides in Atlanta.
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