This week we’ve been mostly asking one question. With Central American drug barons apparently stalking assassination targets via Facebook, and general, non-organised crime related users becoming increasingly skeptical about what information they share, what does the future hold for online communities?
Well, on the face of it the answer is quite simple- more than likely, the coming years will reflect- at least in some small way- what has already happened in the preceding years. The advent of social media wasn’t social networks, in fact far from it. The overall concept has proved itself a winning formula since the birth of forums, as such El Chapo-types doing a spot of research on Mark Zuckerberg’s baby ahead of killing someone, and the sudden wariness amongst the public to share information probably won’t reverse that trend. But that doesn’t mean maintaining the status quo either.
Of course social networks and social media have always existed in a state of flux, however how they are perceived has previously been relatively consistent. Useful tools, facilitating necessary means of communication, current campaigns against Facebook’s rather skewed understanding of ‘controversial content’- wherein pictures of naked women are removed but videos of beheadings are easy to find- are indicative of a backlash that seems to be gaining momentum. As are recent headlines regarding a reduction in the amount of information members are willing to share.
In the wake of the spying saga this is hardly surprising, but you could also factor in more than governmental surveillance. According to Vice Magazine, cartels in Mexico are using social media for PR purposes, posting pictures of guns, women and money to gloat and intimidate, whilst responding to local, regional and national crises with gestures of goodwill in order to appease their communities. Perhaps more worrying, though, is the apparent rise in the monitoring of potential targets via social networks, and reverse hacking to ascertain the identity of supposedly ‘anonymous’ online critics. As per the same article, these technological tools have even lead to a new type of crime dubbed ‘express kidnapping’, whereby people are geographically located via the web and abducted with just hours of planning beforehand, rather than days.
By now you’re probably wondering a few things, the first of which being ‘what’s the point in this post’, as such we’ll cut to the chase. Whilst social media was conceived as a means to open the lines of communication further, and in turn became a platform to speak one’s mind, and keep up to date on the movements of loved ones, recent years and in particular months have seen more and more negative press looking at how the functionality of these websites is being used. From concerns over the vulnerability of children to arguments surrounding the nature of content therein, and, of course, widespread panic about how much strangers can learn from what we reveal about ourselves on the web, social media is at risk of losing the ‘functional fun’ tag it once had, and the repercussions of that will only become apparent as time progresses.