If the Internet doesn’t forget, it also continues to evolve – The Virginian-Pilot

One of the most common and unfortunate lessons about social media is that published content never really goes away.

If a user posts something that is problematic, offensive, or embarrassing, that content will likely remain in screengrab infamy, even if the original user quickly deletes the post. This reality has led many users to appropriately treat their shared content as “forever” and to assume that what they post on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms will always be widely visible and of some significance. .

This permanence assumption is frequently extended to the concept of online personal brands. As a college professor, I frequently encounter career services professionals who strongly encourage students to build meaningful brands. I know many people – students, adult professionals, and businesses – who have spent countless hours curating what they think is the perfect online brand for themselves.

Still, I concluded that all that time and effort might not have been particularly well spent.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a social media hater. These platforms provide valuable spaces for discourse, self-expression and professional development.

Where I think people, especially young adults, go wrong is when they assume that what they build for themselves on a social media platform will be there, and of value, primarily for still. It won’t be.

I feel like a bit of an old geezer making this point, but the internet and I grew up together, and from that perspective, the inherently transient nature of social media platforms is abundantly clear to me.

Users often don’t realize that today’s popular social media providers (Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok) are just intermediate steps in a much larger continuum of technological evolution. Just as early web browsers Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer have been replaced by Chrome, Safari and Firefox, the currently popular social media platforms have taken up space once held by MySpace, Friendster, Vine and Google Plus.

And there’s no reason to believe that the continued evolution of social media in the short and long term will be any different. It seems unlikely that currently widely used platforms will maintain their preferred positions in five, 10 or 15 years.

Right now we’re probably witnessing the beginning of the end for Facebook – a platform that was once a global juggernaut is now struggling to attract and retain young adults as users, especially in the US. .

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So what does this mean for personal and professional online branding? The big lesson here is that such branding, while clearly valuable, shouldn’t be at the very forefront of anyone’s long-term professional development plan. It’s reasonable to expect that in five to ten years, 1 million Twitter followers will be roughly the same value as what a once-popular MySpace page is worth today in 2022. This transience must be taken into account in any personal brand. building project.

The recent erosion of young adult Facebook users is a cautionary tale for those considering investing significant effort in cultivating large audiences for their personal brands on social media.

The same goes for the recent drama surrounding Elon Musk’s proposed takeover of Twitter. This recurring saga has left many users worried about the future of the platform, with some going so far as to say they would quit Twitter altogether if Musk took over the company. This potential loss of market share is especially concerning for users who have invested tremendous effort in building a strong brand on Twitter.

If the preferences of social media users who, let’s face it, have always been fickle, were to abruptly shift from Twitter to a new platform, these efforts will have been for nothing and will have to be revived regardless of the “next big”. thing” is.

From my perspective, the social media ecosystem has always been, and will likely continue to be, an inherently unstable space, susceptible to disruption from both continued technological advancements and the changing preferences and whims of users.

Spending the time and effort to build a personal brand online is almost certainly worth it, but investing countless hours creating content with the specific intent of cultivating a large follower base on today’s platforms is equally worth it. logical than building a 20-room mansion. of a shifting, windswept sand dune.

Mathew Gendle is a professor of psychology at Elon University in Elon, North Carolina.

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