We live in a world where most of our communication comes through some medium. It may be a platform, application, or some electronic means to communicate. History shows that before platforms, applications, and electronic means, paper served as the major medium for communication. Before that, stories and information were passed down from person to person and people to people.
We also live in a world where people can get paid for communicating. Nothing new there though, right? People whom the public views and advertisers consider valuable have always paid to see brands and people to get their message out and across to consumers. The difference now is that it is much easier to communicate with the help of technology and electronic communication through platforms, applications, and mobile phones (e.g., computers).
For example, Facebook-owned Instagram recently introduced new monetization for IGTV. The newfound love for Chinese-owned ByteDance’s TikTok has increased exponentially in users, content, and moneymaking ability to the point where longform content is now being considered as an option for the social media platform. Reinvigorated Snapchat also recently brokered deals with Disney, the NFL, and Viacom for content.
All of the above to say that content is still king, and distribution is still queen. Thank you Jonathan Perelman. However, and more importantly, what does content consumption say about our culture and progress? Thankfully, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees our right to free speech and to peaceably assemble. Nonetheless, how we receive and comprehend communication matters.
In the current environment, tech/social media platforms are immune from liability and yet simultaneously have little to no regulation in the United States as to what information is published. On the other hand, tech/social media platforms are free to regulate speech they deem unfit for their platform. With that power and lack of oversight, here are three concerns in the social media and platform information age.
1. Be first, not right
Thank you Denzel Washington for this insight. He saw it clearly when asked about media and communication consumption in the current age. Interestingly enough, if users and platforms focused on getting information right, more people would follow and listen in, creating more monetization opportunities.
2. Sacrifice truth for followers and views
Often, unfortunately, communication is used to gain influence, followers, and monetization, while sacrificing something. Before posting anything, users should consider (1) the quality of the source, (2) the truth and correctness of the information, and/or (3) whether sharing the information is valuable (as in sharing good news or a good message). As my Grandma used to say, “If you cannot say anything good, do not say anything at all.” More unfortunately, platforms and people seem to reward convenience, not correctness. How about incentivizing truth?
3. Herd mentality, squared
In the past communication moved slower. Today, it moves a lot faster and is constantly increasing in speed. We can see this when information is shared and reshared, tweeted and retweeted, and posted and reposted. Where information moves quickly and people and platforms are incentivized for being first (or at least not being late), it adds to the herd mentality that folks should just follow as opposed to being left behind.
All being fair, social media is a terrific invention and something that can be utilized in the entertainment, media, and sports space among talent and brands, equally for good. The point is to remember that great responsibility comes with great influence. Monetization and great content is there for the long term if the focus is on values and truth. People will always gravitate towards what they can trust.