“Does anyone here use Twitter?” asked the teacher in a class this afternoon. Not a single hand was raised.
“What about Facebook?” the teacher continued, “Or is that just for old people?” There were no hands raised. (Shareholders in the company might take note of its failure to achieve a share of usage among those in their early teens).
“Facebook is as old fashioned as MySpace,” said one boy (who can have been no more than a baby during the heyday of MySpace).
“Be careful what you say about MySpace,” said the teacher, “it was big in its time.”
“How about Instagram?” the teacher continued.
“I have an account,” said the boy who had cited MySpace.
“Yeah,” said another, “you post pictures of black screens.”
The teacher’s intention had been to prompt consideration of one of the platforms as a source of information. “Let’s think about social media, generally,” he said.
There was a blank look on the faces of most of the students. There was not much suggestion that any of them used social media. Mobile phones seem chiefly to be used for messaging, or watching YouTube videos, not for interacting with the wider world. Unless you count YouTube, there seemed no evidence whatsoever of any interest in social media generally.
The words of an old school teacher from forty years came to mind, “Nothing dates as fast as the contemporary, Ian.” At the time it had seemed a stuffy remark, the sort of comment that might have been made by someone who wanted to hold on to antediluvian ways, the sort of view that might have been expressed by a person who disliked the way the world had gone. Of course, the old teacher had been right. Today’s news is out of date by tomorrow. Who would buy yesterday’s newspaper?
The selling point of most technology is that it is new, that it is current, that it is cutting edge, that it can offer users an experience not available elsewhere; therein lies its downfall.
In the 1990s, it was said that every two years, you could have the same technology for half the price, or twice the technology for the same price. The interval shortened to eighteen months. Now who could guess the rate of change? Things seem obsolete as soon as they are bought. For twenty-five years or more, people have been accustomed to constant innovation, constant novelty. Social media platforms that were established in the Noughties are regarded as outdated by those who expect constant change. Facebook and Twitter and their successors will go the way of MySpace because that is the logic of the process in which they have engaged.