The social media apocalypse

“In the new world slowly emerging by the end of 2018, people begin to read long 18th-century English novels, go to the symphony, and watch 12 to 14 hours of terrestrial television a day. They also play board games as a family.”

2018 will be the year social media ends.

Bold! But no more foolish, in retrospect, than my 2010 prediction that The New York Times would abandon its paywall after a mere few more months of public outrage and financial pressure. Unlike that dour piece of speculation, this is a prediction I would actually like to see come true. 2017 has been a depressing year. Here’s to hope. 

Twitter first. In April 2018, following the release of the Mueller report and Trump’s blanket pardon of not only his entire family but himself, Twitter management will finally suspend @realDonaldTrump. But it’s too late — the political backlash and upheaval from the decision send Twitter’s stock price tumbling. The company finally sells itself to Circa for pennies on the dollar, but the entire userbase and profile information is set on fire by a departing engineer. Circa is left with nothing. 

Facebook, surprisingly, ends sooner. Well, not really ends. In February, the company will be forcibly nationalized following more revelations about the extent of Russian hacking and espionage carried out by a clever manipulation of website algorithms. Mark Zuckerberg tries to shut the News Feed down completely, but not before Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz make common cause in the Senate to appropriate Facebook’s liquid assets, its digital data, and its property. Both the GOP and the newly rebranded National Farmer-Labor-Democratic Party have a very different understanding of what it means for “Facebook to serve the state”…but crisis makes for strange bedfellows.   

Instagram goes the way of Facebook, its corporate parent. In the space left free by the transformation of the photo-sharing  platform, Marissa Mayer tries to revitalize the recently spun-off Flickr. She fails. 

Weibo, finally, stakes everything on its forcible acquisition of Bitcoin, but the global energy crisis caused by the 37th hurricane of the Atlantic hurricane season in November 2018 blocks Bitcoin from the world’s grid. Bitcoin’s ensuing bankruptcy drags down the Chinese social media behemoth.

In the new world slowly emerging by the end of 2018, people begin to read long 18th-century English novels, go to the symphony, and watch 12 to 14 hours of terrestrial television a day. They also play board games as a family. Columnists for the nation’s “little magazines” reconsider the typewriter, and tell us about it at length. Newspapers begin to regain advertising market share. And, slowly but surely, people begin to know less and less about how many times Donald Trump has golfed, the most recent campus free-speech controversy, and North Korea’s latest missile launch. Everyone grows a little bit more ignorant, but also a lot more relaxed. It’s unclear whether to count 2018’s great social media die-off as a triumph, or a tragedy — or both. Pundits point to the looming 2020 American election as the moment when we’ll finally figure it out.

C.W. Anderson is a professor of media and communication at the University of Leeds.

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Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

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Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Marcela Donini and Thiago Herdy   Collaboration is the way forward for Brazilian journalism

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

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Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

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Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

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Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

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Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

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Tanzina Vega   It’s time for media companies to #PassTheMic

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

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Frédéric Filloux   External forces

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Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

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Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Paul Ford   Go global

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Susie Banikarim   R.I.P. Pivot to Video (2017–2017)

Alan Soon   The rise of start of psychographic, micro-targeted media

Sara M. Watson   Feeds will open up to new user-determined filters

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Jim Moroney   Newspapers have to be good enough for readers to pay for

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Burt Herman   Things get real

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

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Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   The Snapchat scenario and the risk of more closed platforms

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Richard J. Tofel   The platforms’ power demands more reporters’ attention

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Errin Haines   At the ballot, it’s time to count black women

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Eric Ulken   The year local publishers get smart(er) about change

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Helen Havlak   Keywords, not publishers, power the world’s biggest feeds

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Aron Pilhofer   We can’t leave the business to the business side any more

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Women of color will reclaim and monetize our time

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Jake Levine   The return to now

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

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Dan Newman   A return to trust

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

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Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

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Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

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Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

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Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

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Julia B. Chan   Looking for loyalty in all the right places

Dan Shanoff   You down with OTT? (Yeah, DTC)

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

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Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

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Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse