The Demise of (Big) Social Media

I do not make a habit of touting my predictions.  First, because like most predictors, I am rarely right, but use the one time I was right to kid myself that I can actually see the future.  Secondly, like most other folks who are making predictions, I am biased towards the outcome I am professing.

Having said all that, I have a prediction.  I believe big-time social media is in decline.  Financial decline will lead usage declines, but I think the pattern is being set.

Meta Platforms’ (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp) value has declined 75% from its high just over a year ago.  Twitter has lost 76% of its value in the last 18 months, and it would have been as much as an 84% decline if Elon Musk had not bought Twitter for $44 billion, thus raising Twitter’s value by 45% from its low.

Currently (as of writing this today 11/4 at 1pm) Twitter is worth some $3 billion less than what Musk paid.

Alex Jones is out of business or will be as soon as his assets are encumbered by the $1 billion judgement against him and all the appeals run out.

T-rump’s Truth Social isn’t a public company yet, but they raised $1 billion to go it alone.  The results have not been promising, but once again, it provided a lot of press for our ex-President.  Financially, all news sources use the word “disaster.”  Moreover, reported by CNBC yesterday, Truth Social’s merger partner, DWAC adjourned its shareholder vote for the 6th time, and “the company is looking to extend the merger deadline to September 2023, but has yet to garner the necessary 65% shareholder support.  Trump Media and DWAC are the subject of a criminal probe relating to the deal, and an internal whistleblower, William Wilkerson, has added his own claims against the companies.”

I do not see this trend ending anytime soon.  Here is what is going to happen. 

Starting with Twitter – Musk starts with a deficit due to those (like me) who deactivated their Twitter accounts based on Musk’s initial actions – cheating his employees out of compensation and his uncaring response to the huge increase in antisemitic and racial invective that blossomed in the days after the sale.  The financial demise has already begun – Musk is/has/will  fire or drive out anyone with creative tendencies and then, in an attempt to recoup the $44 billion he threw at Twitter, is going to monetize the platform anyway he can.    That means that the blue “verification” check marks will cost money and people will leave.  It means that the folks who really, really want to use the platform to spew hatred, bias, conspiracy theories and misinformation will somehow be tapped for payments and their renewed presence will drive away more users.

But that is not the end game. The demise of Twitter and its ilk has a few, non-mutually exclusive, potential endings.  Let’s start with the possibility that the “libs” realize that two can play the misinformation and conspiracy theory game and flood Twitter with the left’s version, e.g., T-rump is a Russian asset, Putin has the “pee tape”, Lindsay Graham is a closeted queer, Marjorie Taylor Greene had an affair with a Black Antifa supporter, Gosar is a pedophile, Matt Gaetz really does have a thing for 15 year old girls, you know the regular stuff.  By the way, Meta faces exactly the same problem.

This results in two additional possibilities a) if the Dems retain both the House and the Senate, Social Media will be regulated – held responsible for the content on their platforms and subsequently sued into bankruptcy for libel, slander, tortious interference, racketeering, or whatever.  This is a huge risk for social media.  It is also one that is likely to be necessary; b) if the Republicans capture the House and the Senate, then the “libs” really have to up their game to annoy the sitting Republican Senators and Congresspeople enough to start regulating social media.  Without any legislative action, anyone who isn’t a gun-toting, MAGA crazy, white supremacy leaning, and/or so pecuniary that they will put up with the aforementioned excrescence to get lower taxes will flee the social media platforms – having been done in by the flood of vitriol.  That leaves all the nutcases talking to themselves.

Combining the unpleasantness of what social media platforms will have to do in the face of declining usage to make money (e.g., advertising, pay for placement and visibility, etc.) with the regulatory likelihood (much higher risk if the Dems win), Twitter, Facebook, Truth Social, and the others who rely on users that spread hate and division will become shadows of their former selves.

There are, of course, some unintended but not necessarily bad consequences to these scenarios.  For example, it would make publishers/and marketplaces like eBay, Etsy, and the like of being responsible for all their content(if someone sells a counterfeit handbag or dress, both the seller and the platform are liable for damages.  That will hurt a bunch of companies, but it is an interesting question – perhaps the days of caveat emptor should be over.  If corporations can be people for political donation purposes, perhaps they should be treated the same as people who sell things – after all, people are responsible for what they sell and authors are responsible for what they write. Why should social media be exempt?

That’s what I predict.  However, it is much more what I would like to see happen.  From my lips (or keyboard) to God’s ears.

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