Could 2007 be the year of social network fatigue?

Could 2007 be the year of social network fatigue?

Summary: In Read/WriteWeb's 2007 Web Predictions, Richard MacManus et al. suggested (albeit slightly tongue in cheek) that we might see a social network backlash, with users deciding that participation in social networks is consuming too much of their time. To stop this from coming true, I argue that social networks need to open up.

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In Read/WriteWeb's 2007 Web Predictions, Richard MacManus et al. suggested (albeit slightly tongue in cheek) that we might see a social network backlash, with users deciding that participation in social networks is consuming too much of their time.

From Read/WriteWeb:

While social networks dominated 2006, we wonder if the amount of time an average user spends online will start to negatively impact on their social lives in 2007 and lead to a downturn. Could social networks prove to be anti-social? ;-)

Whilst history tells us that MySpace could easily lose its novelty, as younger users move onto the next cool site, I think social networking sites in general will remain popular for the foreseeable future. Not (as strange as it sounds) primarily because of their networking functionality, but because they provide many users with their first foray into the world of personal publishing. How many people have created a MySpace page, who would never dream of starting a blog?

Social networks need to open up

Another driving force for social networks in 07, will be the increasing number of niche networks which are highly targeted to particular interest groups or social activities. The question that still remains however, is how many social networks any one user is likely to join and remain active in? This is where Read/WriteWeb's prediction of fatigue has more weight. Unless the time required to sign-in, post to, and maintain profiles across each network is reduced, it will be impossible for most users to participate in multiple sites for very long. Therefore I think it will be essential for social networks to open up, through embracing open standards which allow for greater interoperability between networks. Although as Read/WriteWeb also predicts, MySpace will probably be the last to do so.

Related post: Do ordinary users care about data portability?

Topic: Social Enterprise

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3 comments
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  • Elitism Will Rise

    I think that people will realize that talking with everyone and anyone is just not that valuable after a while...as in society, most people want to "talk up" -- to someone more powerful, more beautiful, more interesting.

    I think we'll see the rise of Web Cliques, areas that you just aren't invited to...and asymmetric web societies, where you can network with people -- for a price.

    So, whereas YOU is the Man of the Year for 2006, THEM will be the Man of the Year for 2007.
    jabailo1
  • The issue isn't openness, but ubiquity

    I think the prediction of "social fatigue" is somewhat correct, but it's specifically going to come from the excess of content. I already see this happening among my friends: as their online reading list grows too much, they tend to scale it back *dramatically*, to get it under control again.

    Opening things up really isn't going to change this -- the need to log into separate networks isn't causing the problem. Even among circles like mine, which are entirely focused on a single platform (LiveJournal, in this case), it's simply that there's too much content once everyone is on board.

    It's an economics problem, basically. We've known for many years that the principal currency of the Web is *attention*: everyone wants your attention, and you only have a limited supply of it. Social networks are capable of soaking up as much attention as you will give them. People were willing to give them a lot while the idea was novel, but that'll gradually fragment and reduce as they get used to them, same as with every previous online tech...
    jducoeur
  • Elite networks? Yes but unproductive

    I agree there is a market for spcialized networking. Look at the dating sites and "CIO" sites

    However from scouts to NASCAR to fusion at home there are lots of interest areas where people want to exchange ideas and thoughts. This whole "I have left my mark" has driven not only blogs but the site where you could purchase a pixel for a dollar. Now YouTube where people make their own movies.

    As social creatures we love to be seen when there is no risk and lots of reward!

    Just my thoughts since I like to be heard. Now it is your turn.

    Allen
    ashepard@...