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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Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

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Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

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

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

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David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

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

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Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

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Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

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Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

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Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

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Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

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Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Paul Ford   Go global

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Millie Tran and Stine Bauer Dahlberg   (Hint: It’s about your brand)

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

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Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Jake Levine   The return to now

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

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

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

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Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

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

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

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

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

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

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Burt Herman   Things get real

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

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

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

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

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

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Jesse Holcomb   Information disorder, coming to a congressional district near you

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

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

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

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

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Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Dan Newman   A return to trust

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

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Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

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

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions