Social Media Fragmentation

The era of Facebook is an anomaly. The idea of everybody going to one site is just weird. Give me one other part of history where everybody shows up to the same social space. Fragmentation is a more natural state of being. Is your social dynamic interest-driven or is it friendship-driven? Are you going there because there’s this place where other folks are really into anime, or is this the place you’re going because it’s where your pals from school are hanging out? That first [question] is a driving function.

This is from danah boyd’s interview with The Verge back in March. She has been labeled as “one of the world’s sharpest authorities on how teens interact with technology, and for many, her word has become canon for understanding why teens do what they do.”

I’m not going to tell you, “Facebook is dead.” I think that’s ridiculous. But I do think we’re going to see a shift in how we view social media in the future. Up until this point, the majority of people have a profile, their connected friends, their newsfeed, and a smorgasbord of posts, pictures, and events from their friends — this is how the majority of social media networks work.

But therein lies the problem. The current social media landscape relies on friends and connections. People make the argument that nobody will overtake Facebook because that’s where the people are. And I would agree with them if we’re talking about the kind of social network that hosts connections with close friends and family where you can share vacation photos, family pictures, and intimate stories.

But I would make the argument that we’re going to enter into a landscape (if we’re not there already) that begins to base what we know as “social networks” on interests and ideas rather than friends or followers therefore further fragmenting social media as we see it today.

Facebook Rooms

Facebook announces new standalone app called “Rooms”

Last month, Facebook announced a new app called Rooms. What is interesting about this specific launch is that it is completely independent of Facebook — it doesn’t connect to your profile, it doesn’t send friends invites, it doesn’t connect in any way.

It is 2014’s take on bulletin boards, chat rooms, and forums. It lets people create topical “Rooms” where they focus on a very specific topic. You launch the app and then either join or create a Room. When you create a Room, you can customize everything including the look and description. Then for each room, you can create a new identity. “We’re not always expressing exactly the same identity from place to place online. Sometimes you want to be fully anonymous. Sometimes you want to use the authority of your own full, true name. Rooms lets you do all those things,” said Mat Honan from Wired.

You can only join a room by way of an invite. But it’s not an ordinary invite—it’s a QR code. I would normally roll my eyes after hearing “QR Code” but given how it’s being used, I actually think it’s a great use of the technology. Once you create a Room it adds a QR Code invite to your photos on your phone. You can then share that photo with your friends to send them an invite or you can print it out and use it in a physical space.

The future

It’s yet to be seen if Rooms is going to take off. If any of the other apps Facebook has created are any inclination of its success—it’s not looking up (see: Poke, Slingshot, Paper). And even though this may not be the most original idea ever, I applaud Facebook for developing something that doesn’t rely on its existing ecosystem and aims to provide an experience based on ideas rather than friends.

Whether it’s this app or another one, I’m excited to see the future of idea-based networks that expand the social media landscape into one that caters to a person’s interests rather than one stark, blue, one-size-fits all approach.

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