A Matter of Trust
Unsurprisingly, the digital environment doesn’t stand still. Under increasing pressure and distrust, what could the future hold for social media?
May we live in interesting times… The old Chinese proverb – or curse – is rather apt in the media world given the extraordinary change the arena is going through. Whilst a short editor’s letter is not the place to delve in detail into the increasingly digitzation of media, fake media, Trump and the increasing level of distrust being shown towards the social media giants, it is worth starting to ponder what all this may mean in our more modest lifestyle arena.
We live in a world of perfection – driven now not by a few big magazine editors and couture designers demanding airbrushed excellence – but actually by ourselves. We follow, we critique, we apparently envy those who spend their lives on social media. That the images can be as false and carefully curated as any old school fashion photo has not yet dimmed the status of “social influencer” chancers. Yet as the clouds of doubt begin to form on the horizon for social media – some initial studies believe less than 25 per cent of people in the UK trust these mediums as sources of honest information – should the lifestyle arena begin to consider life after Facebook/ Twitter and so on….?
Certainly when there is increasing disbelief at social media’s inability to intelligently regulate what it propagates and people from George Soros to Sir Tim Berners-Lee are concerned at the whole medium’s ability to distort debate and enhance falsehoods, one has to start to analyse its potentially pernicious effect on the lifestyle arena. Some on social media have done rather well out of it but as brands and consumers are now starting to realise, followers can be bought. The social media companies use of algorithms will place those who have paid the most at the top of tree – therefore we have a metaphorical arms race as 20,000 “followers” becomes the new 10,000 and so on ever upwards.
Ultimately what does the intelligent or careful consumer get for following these social media people? Due to the uncritical embrace of these online dilettantes, the past few years has seen the corrosive effect of the freebie. This has been made worse by the recent fascination with pretty pictures pumped out in isolation with no explanation as to what the item is, its respective quality compared to other equivalent goods or understanding of the people who have sweated to bring whatever it is – be it a shoe or hotel room – into existence. In return for a free suit, bag or dress (always negotiated in advance) the end result has been galleries of pictures with zero objectivity luring you to part with your hard earnt money. The blogosphere (where there was at least some explanation and education) has increasingly given way to the narcissistic Insta-snap where information is expressed via hashtag.
For an editor of a completely digital magazine, it’s a tricky debate and one that I frankly accept lays me open to the charge of hypocrisy. I can honestly say social media is something I don’t enjoy doing but know it’s my advance guard, my electronic skirmisher, my lasso to gain interest and readership of one’s little electronic rag. Over 2018 though, the drip drip of dissatisfaction against social media – and what it now stands for – is not going to go away.