Meta layoffs and peak social media

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, is expected to announce major layoffs in the coming days. 

This is a further sign of social media’s slow, but inevitable decline. We have long since reached “peak social media”. 

By that I mean: the saturation point, the fulcrum moment when we collectively decide that we’ve had enough of it, and just want to enjoy the wildly diverse, ungated Internet again.

How did the social media oligopoly come about? Social media as we know it today became entrenched in the 2005 – 2010 period, when the Big Four—YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram—all started and took off. Since then, social media has become the doorway to content on the Internet for many of us.

But the perception of social media is changing. People on all sides (though admittedly, conservatives in particular) are concerned about the power that tech firms wield in our political process. Parents and psychologists have long noted that social media has a negative impact on young people, particularly adolescent and teen girls. Social media isolates young people into little online silos, even as it makes them hyper-aware of what others are thinking or saying about them…or might be thinking or saying about them.

Most of the individual platforms are also facing specific problems of their own. Twitter was a dumpster fire a year ago. Under Elon Musk, it is in complete disarray. 

TikTok, lo and behold, really does seem to be some form of Chinese spyware. 

Facebook, meanwhile, long under fire for privacy and free speech concerns, is bleeding users. This isn’t 2011 anymore, or even 2016, when Facebook was just “the place to be”:

“…in 2022, the cycle has reversed. Users are jumping ship and advertisers are reducing their spending, leaving Meta poised to report its second straight drop in quarterly revenue. Businesses are removing Facebook’s once-ubiquitous social login button from their websites.”

Note the point about advertising, the heart of the Facebook revenue model. As someone who has purchased ads on Facebook in the past, I can tell you that they become less effective each year. 

This is because Facebook’s user base is dwindling, and the people who are still on Facebook spend less time there. 

I remember the pre-social media Internet of 1996 to roughly 2004. It was more fun, and a less contentious place to be. The social media age is not forever, and that’s a good thing.