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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

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February 26, 2024
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The “Tiktokification” of social media

Almost everybody uses social media. In fact, according to a 2021 Pew Research Center report, 84 percent of people aged 18 to 29 use at least one social media platform; 65 percent reported that they use Snapchat, 48 percent use TikTok, and a whopping 95 percent use YouTube. Even older generations use social media—primarily Facebook and YouTube—with some regularity. [1]

With such a big market for social media platforms, it’s no wonder that dozens of companies have taken it upon themselves to create new, supposedly better websites. But there’s just one issue: new platforms aren’t where the money is. The homogenization of social media serves one purpose, and that’s to make CEOs rich. Instagram reels are the same as Snapchat stories and are the same as YouTube shorts—when you use one platform, you’re using all of them. 

According to the 2021 report, only YouTube and Reddit have reported statistically significant user growth since 2019. [1] This is unwelcome news for social media companies: Social media services, which are historically free to use, cost money to run. This isn’t an issue when you can point to your unlimited growth as evidence that your platform will eventually begin to generate revenue, because shareholders will invest if they think they can make money. Now that it seems like these platforms are stagnating, companies are struggling to think of ways to turn a profit. 

X, formerly Twitter, has turned to a subscription-based service alongside YouTube, Spotify and others. According to Investopedia, X has made most of its profits from advertising and licensing before its acquisition, although it struggled to stay in the green. [2] Although X’s finances are not available to the public now that it’s privately owned, some stories suggest that Elon Musk, the company’s infamous new owner, has been implementing some cost-cutting measures. For example, a lawsuit in January alleged that X, then still under the name Twitter, was behind $140,000 in rent, according to the Register. [3]

Every “premium” option is the same as the last—aren’t you excited to pay another $8 or $10 or $15 a month to use the same exact service as before? Sometimes, platforms will add a few new features to sweeten the deal, but these rarely add any utility to the app or website. They only serve to get shareholders excited about how modern their software is. Meta, Facebook’s parent company, is an excellent example of how useless these updates are. Although Meta invested billions into its VR platform Horizon Worlds—part of its “innovative” push towards the metaverse—its daily user base has plummeted to 200,000 users, far below its goal of 500,000, according to internal documents released by Verge. [4]

And of course, every platform has to integrate AI somehow, even if it has nothing to do with the app. AI and generative algorithms appear new and modern to brands, and that’s what really counts in this industry. Just like cryptocurrency and NFTs before it, AI has limited applications, and the excitement surrounding it is overblown. Snapchat’s messaging AI comes to mind: nobody asked for it, it worked poorly and then it was forgotten about.

It’s a shame, really. Social media has always had its flaws, but now it’s going the way of streaming services and cable TV before it. Twitter and Facebook, like it or not, have been some of the biggest ways for people of every generation to receive news, organize events, and communicate. Social media revolutionized the way we consume content. It should be a place for us to connect with people anywhere in the world; as it stands, it’s just another monthly subscription to add to the list.  


[1] Auxier, B., & Anderson, M. (2021, April 7). Social Media Use in 2021. Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2021/04/07/social-media-use-in-2021/

[2] Reiff, N. (2023, August 4). How X (Formerly Twitter) Makes Money. Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/120114/how-does-twitter-twtr-make-money.asp

[3] Curry, R. (2023, January 3). Elon Musk’s cost-cutting campaign at Twitter extended to not paying rent, claims landlord. The Register. https://www.theregister.com/2023/01/03/elon_musks_costcutting_campaign_at/

[4] Roth, E. (2022, October 15). Meta’s Horizon Worlds VR platform is reportedly struggling to keep users. The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2022/10/15/23405811/meta-horizon-worlds-losing-users-report


About the Contributor
Elijah Horwath, Opinions Editor