Psychologists Predict The Demise of Social Networks

"Every social network has a defined lifespan for most people where the benefits of using it outweigh the costs."

social networks

PsychCentral is predicting the demise of social networks like Facebook: “Meanwhile, big social networks are doomed to fail from the onset, especially ones that encourage you to ‘friend’ people who you don’t really know and aren’t really friends.”

The lifespan of social networks is constricted when the “costs start to outweigh the benefits.” Why? It all boils down to online identity management, or curating of the details of our lives — what we choose to share, when and with whom:

When social networks are small and have small amounts of people in it — maybe just a few trusted friends are connected to you on the network — you spend a lot less time on identity management. You know this small group of people, and you know how they feel and think about things. You know if you share a dirty joke with them, they’ll laugh — not get offended.

As an online social network grows and we gain more and more friends on it, it starts to include co-workers and friends we don’t know as well. Maybe we add a few old acquaintances. And even a family member or two. Suddenly, we’re no longer sure how they might take a dirty joke, or when we share a political link. Will some in the group be offended?

So we start to self-censor and share less. When in doubt, instead of hitting the “Post” button, we hit the, “Nah, better not” button and don’t post that picture we find hilarious, but others may be offended by. Facebook already knows this, based upon its own research. In that study, researchers found that “71 percent of the users typed out a status, a comment or both but did not submit it. On average, they held back on 4.52 statuses and 3.2 comments.”

When identity management requires increased efforts and time, we reach a point of diminishing returns and our engagement drops off as we check the site less often. According to Facebook’s latest 10K filing, its active monthly users has decreased. And recent studies show that teens are leaving Facebook.

A study by digital agency iStrategyLabs found that the number of teens using Facebook was down 25.3 percent when compared with its 2011 report, while users 55 and older were up 80.4 percent during that same period. Maybe older users are less concerned with impression management.

The younger set is gravitating toward messaging apps that require less time for image curation, like Snapchat. “Instead, they’re used to communicate with a small group of friends. Gamers also use them to communicate in real-time about their team-based game,” said online psychology and behavioral psychologist John Grohol, founder & CEO of Psych Central.

Click here to read Gohol’s full report.

image credit: PsychCentral
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