After an uninterrupted decade of exponential development of social networks, the year 2018 marked the pace of unbridled growth. Are we witnessing the beginning of a disenchantment or are we reaching the maturity of social media? Let's look at the retro with application ...
A transnational trend
THEARCEP publishes its annual barometer of digital practices. The institution notes a stagnation in the practice of social media in France. With a usage rate identical to 2017 amounting to 59% of users, social networks mark for the very first time a halt in the growth of their audiences. And even more surprisingly, this practice decreases among the youngest. The rate of use among 18-24 year olds drops from 96% to 93%. It is even more marked for the 12-17 year old generation, down 8 points compared to last year at 84%. So, are we seeing the beginning of a disenchantment with social media or are we coming to the maturity of a market with spectacular changes?
We could say that the phenomenon is confined within the hexagon. However, this slowdown is also observed in Europe and on the other side of the Atlantic. The country that created and pioneered social media, the United States, also measures a stagnation in the number of users. The recent survey conducted by the American research center Pew Research measure that the rate of use of social networks reached 69%, an identical result to 2017.
The great upheaval
What is certain is that the year 2018 will leave indelible marks on the public. And more particularly with Facebook. Because even if social networks do not limit it only to Mark Zuckerberg's tool, it is he who is the locomotive with the largest number of users, either 2.2 billion people in the world. So When the Facebook colossus coughs, it's all social media that catches a cold. Already singled out for several years in the use of personal data, Mark Zuckerberg's company is severely heckled. In March 2018, the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke out, creating a lasting wave of suspicion towards the public. Its opacity regarding the use of user data has always fueled many fantasies and generated increasingly acute mistrust. The British government strikes him another hard blow by making confidential documents public related to its management of personal information. The entry into force of General Data Protection Regulation (RGPD) in May 2018 also politically crystallizes mistrust of Facebook and others. Once again, Mark Zuckerberg's company is at the forefront.
However, Facebook is not alone in the turmoil. Snapchat is also experiencing a significant setback this year with a deadweight loss of 3 million active users in just 3 months. In the midst of a growing crisis, Gen Z's favorite social network faces stiff competition, pays dubious strategic choices and struggles to convince on the stock market.
On a dangerous slope
This phenomenon suggests that social networks are entering a new phase in their life cycle. They leave the age of growth towards that of maturity. Because, in its current form, social media tends to standardize. All platforms mimic each other and copy rival functionalities. One of the most glaring examples is that of the Story, originally developed by Snapchat. Today, all the other supports have implemented their Story module in their interface. Even LinkedIn, often late, announced Story integration last month. And we can apply this example to instant messaging, live streaming and photo filters. The main attraction of a social platform lies in its uniqueness and differentiation. Their standardization therefore trivializes them, generating a loss of interest on the part of users.
Another phenomenon has been gaining momentum in recent months. It's that of the desertion of celebrities from their social accounts. A great responsibility is borne by hateful behavior and what we call haters. With a bang, Karine Le Marchand, for example, announced in March 2018 that she was leaving Twitter by criticizing the " hate spillway ". And the choice of the host of M6 is far from being an isolated case. Justin Bieber, Michel Polnareff, Benjamin Biolay, Michel Cymes, announced their withdrawal from the blue bird for exactly the same reasons. These personalities, as influencers, at the same time convey the message of the risks presented by social networks.
In addition to political pressure and the saturation of influencers, a new front is also opening: that of health risk. Several European and American studies point to the correlation between a feeling of unease and the practice of social networks. Their passive use would fuel stress and depressive risks. Some of these studies conclude that limiting the use of social networks to 30 minutes a day would lower anxiety levels and reduce the risk of developing depression. Still at the theoretical stage, one can easily imagine that recommendations will emerge on education and the parsimonious use of these tools.
Social networks, in their current form, are thus going through a period of strong turbulence and are the subject of a real adolescent crisis combined with mistrust. The need for ethics becomes central on the part of users as certain abuses escape any control.. And we haven't yet touched on the subject of conspiracy and fake news that are popping up massively on all social media. Nevertheless, despite this stagnation, the practice of social media is deeply anchored in the daily life of all age groups. Sensing the wind of the ball approaching, all social networks are entering a phase of change oriented on two levers: the production of content and the deployment of social commerce. It remains to be seen whether this change will also include consideration of the ethical alert cry sent from all sides.
Maxime Poux, communications director of the Ginger group… guest of the We Are COM team!