Once I signed as much as Fb and Twitter within the mid-2000s, there was no pretend information, no conspiracy theories, no political ravings, and — blissfully — no Minion memes.
Earlier than the limitless scrolling of Fb timeline, posts didn’t cling round lengthy sufficient for folks to stalk one another. Equally, nothing auto-played and adverts stayed out of the newsfeed and simply exterior of your instant sight view. It was a stupendous time to be alive.
Now, social media is a really totally different place.
Whereas some would argue that that is the fault of partisan politics, Trump, or the rise of pretend information, to me it’s not the content material that has modified, however the person expertise.
The gradual decline of those platforms isn’t the fault of some exterior pressure; it’s the fault of the designers, engineers and company determination makers who’ve progressively eroded these platforms from the within out.
Logging on to social media was a enjoyable expertise. Fb was a chance to reunite with misplaced contacts, catch-up with pals and see what members of the family had been as much as that week.
Equally, Twitter provided a singular likelihood to remain in contact along with your favorite celebrities, to check out foolish jokes and to construct low-maintenance relationships with a handful of strangers.
Each of those websites had an incredible sense of neighborhood and launched revolutionary applied sciences that set the usual for social media design (within the case of Fb, the ‘like’ and on Twitter the hashtag).
On the identical time, the restricted nature of those platforms dramatically elevated their early attraction, making them really feel uncooked, intuitive and enjoyable. On Twitter, you solely had 140 characters to play with and, later, a single picture to share.
Hyperlinks didn’t auto-expand or auto-shorten and movies didn’t embed seamlessly into posts. Equally, Fb didn’t provide web page suggestions, sport invitations or content material from ‘pals of pals’. All the pieces was primary, streamlined and provided a single, clear perform.
Now, each Twitter and Fb are a junkyard of undesirable content material, options, suggestions and apps. Viral movies, third occasion content material and an limitless wall of sponsored posts litter the newsfeed, making it tougher than ever for customers to entry the content material they really got here to see.
This desire for clickable litter over constructive person experiences is more and more half and parcel of the social media engagement mannequin. As such, the one method to take away this ingredient may very well be to desert at present’s social networks and begin once more from scratch.
However what if there’s a greater approach? What if… we banned the hyperlink.
Hyperlinks are a functioning staple — and a necessity — of the web. However what about on social media? Fb is already cracking down on how folks share hyperlinks to political websites; so why not take this one step additional and cease folks from sharing hyperlinks to exterior websites altogether?
Instantly, you’ve restricted the issue of pretend information. No extra political articles being shared, no extra hyperlinks to viral YouTube movies or conspiracy websites, and no extra clickbait headlines being shared.
In a single day, Fb and Twitter would return to being locations the place pals speak to one another and share their photos. They’d return to being social networks.
As loopy as this suggestion might sound, I truthfully consider that the explanation so many social media customers have flocked to Instagram is as a result of: A. Hyperlinks don’t auto-expand and so can’t be shared because the central focus of a put up.
And, B. Hyperlinks can’t be shared within the feedback part under posts. On account of these two small UX choices, Instagram has remained an efficient social community, freed from response gifs, political arguments and long-form opinions shared as third-party hyperlinks.
Given the success of this method, the thought of extending a hyperlink ban to all of social media might not be that far-fetched.
After all, banning hyperlinks would have main implications for individuals who fund their careers via social media click-throughs. Journalists, PR professionals and content material entrepreneurs would all need to take a success. However then once more, is that basically such a nasty factor?
Websites like Fb and Twitter had been designed with pals, household and neighborhood in thoughts; the limitless pushing of company updates, information articles and ‘content material advertising and marketing’ is just a perversion of that authentic design.
In actuality, in fact, Fb and Twitter are by no means going to take this dramatic step. Equally, they’re by no means going to roll again their platforms to a less complicated time when customers really loved being there. Immediately, there may be an excessive amount of cash at stake to start out studying from the previous — even when a failure to take action kills these platforms in the long term.
Like a lot of Silicon Valley, Fb and Twitter have grow to be obsessive about development that they will barely comprehend what’s finest for the top person.
Whether or not they’re plastering their websites in third occasion content material, mass harvesting person knowledge, or hiding their finest content material behind layers of adverts, the seek for limitless development to justify their inflated valuations can’t be disturbed.
Till we cease reinforcing the parable that, to be able to be worthwhile, tech firms should continuously evolve, disrupt and develop, this downside is rarely going to be mounted.
We have to transfer past limitless development and begin to think about the chance that, generally, it’s wonderful to only construct an awesome product and supply customers with an expertise they get pleasure from.