It's hard to predict how the social media will evolve. After all, despite years of Internet experiences, few had anticipated the kind of tightly-knitted online connections people are having nowadays. That a "loner" can now advertise his cause globally and win millions of "fans" is old news. The big question is, what's next after the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram?
Nobody knows. Theories exist but not a single expert has stuck his or her head out, banged the table and said "This is what it's going to be like 10 years from now." There are many good reasons to be humble, and one of them is that even the exponential growth of Google use had not been expected 12 years or so ago.
Some believe we are seeing the final "pattern" of communication, although the efficiency of the "platforms" will be a lot greater than presently. This school thinks in terms of integration, a world in which one device, presumably a "really smart" mobile phone, does everything in a highly efficient way. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on will converge seamlessly and people will use them like they use different email clients.
In other words, nobody thinks in terms of Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo mail. They just think they are using an email. Social media can be the same, according to this school of thoughts. It doesn't matter how creators try to "differentiate" their innovations because, in the end, users' relentless demand for simplification will prevail.
The other school doesn't actually disagree, but believes we've just seen the beginning. The "empowering" has just got started, so to speak, so if you think politics on social media is all about mobilising support for or drumming up opposition to a government policy, you should think again. Can a national referendum be conducted through the social media? Can we organise a general election without the actual ballot boxes? Better still, do we need a government as it is? Should we finally "fear" democracy if change can happen at the touch of a phone screen?
The days of envying our friends because of their "highlight reels" posted on the social media will not last forever. New platforms, or integration of the existing ones, will likely to take us closer to realities rather than away from them. Make no mistake, "photoshop" kind of apps will remain popular in the foreseeable future, many experts believe social media will be geared toward greater "substances".
In addition to politics, education stands to change immensely. Virtual classrooms are no longer a matter of "if" or even "when", but of implementing the concept on a grand scale. And what about a virtual workplace, where one can work alone on a mountain but feel surrounded by colleagues and depressed by office politics?
Relationship has been affected, positively and negatively, by a technology that makes people so far apart feel so near. Is there room for "improvement"? You bet. After love letters, there was telephone, and after telephone, there was the SMS, and then FaceTime. Social media has facilitated romance, or damaged it, and there's still some way to go.
Innovators must be very hard at work at the moment. But when hundreds of millions, if not billions, are being the judges, platforms that do not serve the best interests of the masses will quickly disappear. Social media may have begun when some nerds put their brilliant ideas into effect, but its evolution depends on far many more people than boy geniuses in the garages. And for those who say masses are predictable, they just need to look at how so-called experts once missed the potentials of Google completely.