Is the Face of Social Media Changing?

I should start off by saying that this post is pure speculation. Just thoughts that have come into my head as a result of watching my teenage daughters interact with their friends online. My kids have said tome for many years that ‘Facebook is for old people’. None of them have Facebook accounts. They do use Instagram and they also use Whatsapp. They have no interest in Twitter. Many of their friends use Snapchat but my children (and I presume their friends) have no real interest in it.

My kids’ social network of choice is Discord. For those of you who are not familiar with it, Discord is an invite-only social media platform originally designed for gamers. Participants create a ‘server’ and they invite others to join that server. Inside that server there are ‘channels’ where discussions happen amongst all the participants on different topics. There is also a capability for private messaging between individuals and between groups of individuals. The concept behind Discord is similar to Slack and Teams, but Slack and Teams are focused on corporations. However, the paradigm amongst all three is the same.

What I find interesting about this is that my kids have not subscribed to the social network metaphor of yore – the ‘Facebook model’ – with everyone an equal citizen on one global platform, (potentially) visible to everyone and definitely visible on a global scale to advertisers. Instead, my children have gravitated to a platform that is, by its architecture, more private. Membership is by invitation only.

My children haven’t done this because they share their father’s heightened and somewhat inconvenient sense of the risks around data privacy. In fact, they don’t care for privacy at all, at least not in the sense that I do.  They’re only on Discord because their friends are on Discord.

Nonetheless, my kids and their friends have made a choice, and that choice was not Facebook, or Instagram, or Snapchat.  My kids and their friends have gravitated towards a platform that is inherently more private than these.

Discord was originally set up as a gaming platform and my children do use it for some gaming. However, its use is much broader than that. They voice chat (or ‘VC’ as the cool kids call it) while they do their homework, collaborating with their classmates. During lockdown their school delivered lessons online using Teams. My children had Teams and Discord open so that they could listen to what was being taught (at least this is what they told me) while at the same time discussing the lesson (also what they told me) on Discord with their classmates.

Educational issues aside, it was interesting to see how my children were interacting with their classmates online as part of their learning.

However, what I find more interesting, and what I wonder, is what does what my 15-year-olds are doing mean for the social media landscape at large? One daughter has deleted her Instagram account because she never uses it. But Discord is used constantly.

Am I seeing the beginnings of a global shift in the social media landscape in my house? I don’t really know. But the way my children interact online gives me pause to think. Maybe social media is changing.

Apart from being the father of four daughters (my eldest lives interstate), in my day-job I provide legal advice on information technology and data privacy for clients of Ezra Legal.  Although I don’t have a Facebook account (for privacy reasons), you can find me on Instagram and LinkedIn. Of course, if you’re more old-school, please feel free to phone 08 8231 6100 or email me Mark Ferraretto 

As yet, my daughters have not invited me to join their Discord server…

Mark Ferraretto

Solicitor

Ezra Legal

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