Okay, so the Internet is the “Wild West.” Funny thing about the Wild West, though. Eventually it was settled.
The same will happen to social media.
Right now, it’s all over the place. Everyone uses it differently.
Some post incessantly. Some post strategically. Some post anonymously (from their mother’s basement, no doubt). Some just read others’ posts. Some are still using Internet Explorer 6.
Eventually these endlessly diverging trends will settle into more steady patterns. Norms will develop. Social media will become more corporate, more contained.
Let me draw a parallel to the 1960s and early 1970s. Then, as now, we were undergoing a youth-led revolution. In those days, the currency was music.
Music then, like social media now, was all over the place.
A band in every garage. Record labels springing up like mushrooms. 45s, LPs, EPs, 8-tracks. Bubblegum, psychedelic, R&B, funk, folk rock, prog rock, protest songs, disco, heavy metal – in an ever-changing blur.
And then it all stabilized.
Think about this: Almost all of the biggest selling records in music history were released during a relatively small window between the mid-‘70s and mid-‘80s. Dark Side of the Moon. Rumours. Hotel California. Thriller. True Blue. Saturday Night Fever. Back in Black. The Joshua Tree. Brothers in Arms. Born In the U.S.A. All in the space of about 15 years. Rarely have we seen those kinds of sales before or since.
What happened? Simple. During that period, anyone consuming music was doing so the same way. Everybody was buying albums. On vinyl, on cassette and then on CD.
When MTV came along, some fans started getting their music via video. Consumption splintered, and it’s been splintering ever since.
Today, we are in the throes of another youth-led revolution, this time with technology – hardware and software – as the centrepiece of the culture.
Huge creativity. Head-spinning advancements. An ever-changing blur.
But it won’t go on like this forever. At some point, probably soon, the creativity will plateau.
Like pop music – and the Wild West, for that matter – social media will settle into predictable, mainstream patterns. It will be bigger than ever, just a lot less wild.