Right up front I should say that I think I'm suffering from bubble fatigue. I entered the workforce just before the dotcom bubble went bust. Since then, it seems as though bubbles have dominated much of my adult life. If I'm not hearing about a bubble that just burst, I'm wondering if we're in the middle of some bubble that's about to burst. And yet for all this talk of bubbles, there seems to be no talk of a bubble for bubbles.
I mention this because I was a little wary when an editor at iMedia asked me to write about the possibility of a social media bubble. In March, Umair Haque had written a blog post in the Harvard Business Review hypothesizing that we were indeed in the middle of a social media bubble. (Depending on your definition, blogs can be considered social media, but that irony wasn't mentioned in the post.)
At first, I thought Haque's argument was rather silly. After all, in May Nielsen reported that three out of four U.S. households with internet access logged on to social networks. But as I began reading, I couldn't stop thinking about my Facebook page, and Haque's argument that social networks offered a lot of rather "thin" relationships.
A year ago, I couldn't get enough of Facebook. I referred to it as my morning Facebook, as in my morning paper. It was the first site I checked every day, and it was a pretty awesome news report on the people I cared about most. But then something changed. I'm not sure when or why, but the more interesting people in my social network stopped posting as often. Real life friends, who overlapped but had their own social networks, made similar observations around the same time.
Increasingly, the interesting updates were replaced with a growing stream of cryptic -- and at times -- nonsensical messages. Sadly, that trend has continued. I still check Facebook, but when I do, I wonder why I bother. The value of Facebook -- for me anyway -- has gone down over the last year. And that's what got me thinking that Haque might have a point, or at the very least, that his argument was worth exploring with some of the people who live and work inside that so-called social media bubble.
While many people had their own conclusions about whether there is indeed a social media bubble (it was more or less a 50/50 split), just the mere mention of the bubble prompted some rather interesting -- and candid -- responses. I'll leave you to draw your own conclusion about whether we're truly in a bubble (and if you're feeling really social, by all means share those conclusions with the class in the comments section). For now, I'd like to share some of the responses to Haque's post, as I believe they highlight some of the more interesting issues currently facing social media.
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