Tag Archive for: consumer centric

A line of people looking at their individual phones

Deep social rifts – the negative impact of social media on society

Something is wrong with the social networks we’re using today. 

The news has been dominated in recent weeks by moves from the big platforms that have made us all question their role in facilitating constructive exchange of opinions and ideas in society. Facebook and Twitter banned President Donald Trump in the wake of civil unrest in Washington. A confusing message regarding WhatsApp’s privacy policy saw millions of users switching to rivals for fear of having their data shared, and resulted in the messaging app backtracking on that change attempt. 

The fact of the matter is that people feel uncomfortable with the far-reaching impact of social media platforms on society. Regardless of whether you agree with censorship, or see the necessity in data-sharing, the question remains – why do we feel so uneasy? 

The impact of the social media advertising model 

Well, social media platforms know everything about us with terrifying precision (for those who haven’t seen the Social Dilemma, what are you waiting for?!). These companies can share the intelligence they gather on users with companies, advertisers who want to target their perfect customers. While this segmentation has its purpose (and has revolutionized the world of sales and marketing), it’s a massive use of resources and these algorithms are not used to benefit the individual using those services but rather the business of the platforms and their clients, the advertisers. It’s also created a very ugly and unwanted byproduct- deep polarization. 

Huge cracks are forming in society. It’s plain to see everywhere, not just in US politics. Covid-19 alone has thrown up many points of contention: vaxxers/anti-vaxxers, mask/no masks, lockdown/herd-immunity, for example. And the impact of social media is speeding along this ‘you’re either with us or against us, there’s no in between’ attitude. For all the benefits we’ve gained from the rise of social media platforms, we’ve lost some quite crucial things: the art of discourse, empathy and understanding. We’ve lost what makes us human. 

Breaking away from the status quo

What can be done about this? Our lives are so entwined with these social media behemoths that it’s hard to see how to breakaway. But perhaps it’s not a question of breaking away, and more a case of putting humanness back in the mix. 

Expecting the platforms of today to change their business models to really serve their customers, the users of the content on their platforms, is difficult if not impossible. Nevertheless, there’s a need for more inclusivity, more of a focus on the collective experience and understanding. 

Platforms that  are truly customer-driven, encourage actual meaningful debate where members respect each other’s perspectives are going to stand out in a world where pontification is rewarded by likes (which gives no context and in itself is problematic, but that’s a topic for another day). By encouraging discussion, our differences become just as valid as our similarities, and we can begin to understand each other, and ourselves. 

Sucks for the advertisers though, right? After all, they’ve built sales pipelines on the data available from social media platforms. Well actually, no. 

Now is the time for change

Businesses are moving towards human-centricity (read my blog from WebSummit to see why some of the biggest names are putting humanness in the heart of their strategy). They want to understand their customers beyond the demographics that are readily available through social advertising. They want to know the human beings behind the buying decision – by understanding the real problems they face, their true desires and concerns, businesses can offer solutions that have a better impact on society as a whole.

We’ve hit a crunch moment. We have a chance to change the direction that humanity is heading in, away from the hostile and deeply divided world and towards something that offers comprehensive understanding. It’s time to fix the negative impact of social media on the fabric of society. Let’s seize the opportunity – individually and collectively. Let’s make sense of humanity together.