May 23, 2018
Social media has changed a lot since I logged into my first ICQ chat in the early 2000s. I was a tween then and my biggest worry about the Internet was whether or not some boy from my school would return my message.
Then came Facebook, which started out simply enough — a place to share photos and write on your friends’ “walls.” And Twitter and Instagram showed up soon as a chronological way to follow your friends’ thoughts or photos as they happened.
Boy, have things changed.
Now filled with algorithms, ads, stories, groups and marketplaces, if teenage me were to log on to the social media platforms of today, I would be very, very confused — and not only because I wouldn’t have to use dial-up Internet. These apps and sites have evolved into a little world of their own. And not completely for the better. Here are a few of my favorite (and least favorite) ways the social media platforms of today have evolved.
I am not exaggerating when I say Twitter has completely changed my life. I first logged on sometime in college, and over time I met people on the platform from all over the Twin Cities. Since then, Twitter introduced me to many of my closest friends. It is where I met my boyfriend, it got me my first writing job, and it was even a big part of helping me get my current job at Fast Horse.
Before Twitter, I was shy, quiet and not very self-assured. It really helped me find my voice, and I will forever be grateful for that.
That being said, Twitter has changed over the last few years. I am aware a lot of it has to do with the overall business needs of the platform, but it is currently a shadow of its former self. And a lot of that, in my opinion, started with the creation of its algorithm.
The whole point of Twitter was to be able to share things with friends and followers in real time. Today, messages are out of order and confusing. I’m also constantly getting alerts about posts I never interacted with, or seeing people in my feed that I don’t follow. This is not to mention that a certain world leader has sort of co-opted most of the conversation these days.
Which brings me to Instagram, my current favorite social media platform. I spend way too much time scrolling through my Instagram feed each day. I very much enjoy watching my friends’ and family’s lives through their cell phones.
But what started as a site to share photos, has quickly become a huge money-making opportunity for brands and advertisers. While the rise of influencers began with blogs, Instagram has increased it tenfold. If you would have told me 10 years ago that most of my job would one day revolve around using influencers to sell products through their Instagram channels, I would have probably said, “what’s an influencer?” But here we are. I very much enjoy this world. It’s fun to be able to work with creative people every day.
Users have also changed the platform through finding ways to sell to people that share a similar style or interests. I now follow several sites where women sell new, used and vintage clothing at a fraction of a price. There are similar channels for things like home goods, workout gear and more. It’s dangerous for my wallet, but it is one of my favorite ways to buy clothing.
With the addition of stories earlier this year, Instagram has also made its platform into a place where people can not only share “special” or “beautiful” pieces of their lives, but can also give glimpses behind the scenes. With the huge rise of influencers, this offers a great way for people to showcase that not everyone on the Internet lives Instagram-perfect lives, but really have messy houses and crazy hair sometimes. Just like you and me.
From a user perspective, the Facebook of today is a total disaster. I honestly don’t even know what is going on most of the time, so I won’t get into it.
I will, however, talk about a huge positive: Facebook Groups. Facebook Groups have connected me to an entirely new and helpful set of people that not only help me in my career, but also in my life. I’ve joined groups such as “Women in Influencer Marketing” and “Binders Full of Women Writers,” where I can follow updates in my industry, and ask other women questions or have discussions about certain aspects of my job.
And I can only imagine where things will go from here. What’s great (and sometimes a bit exhausting) about this industry is that things are always changing and evolving. What’s new and exciting this week might lead to lots of headaches down the road. But it could also change your life. And I think that is pretty cool.
Also, get it together, Facebook. Seriously.