Social Media Sites Have Lost Their Purpose

Lizzie Roberts takes a look at Instragram’s latest announcement to advertise on user timelines and the demise of social media sites in general.

Instagram revealed today that it will be placing adverts within users timelines and with that announcement it seems one of the last untouched user to user networks falls to the advertising dragons.

In the beginning social media was created for human to human, friend to friend, organic interaction. Friendship orientated sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter sprang up in the early noughties for young people to connect with one another over the web. But increasingly over the last few years we have witnessed the demise of the true purpose of these sites. They no longer seem to be set out purely for the user, but have become ever more leaning towards benefiting their wealthy owners who use them to generate advertising income.

It seemed to begin with Facebook introducing adverts to newsfeeds in early 2012, setting a precedent for other sites to follow. Once a bastion for social media freedom, which had so staunchly objected the invasion  of advertising, Facebook had now caved and sold out. And not too long after so did the rest of the social media world.

I, like many others my age, moved further towards using Twitter as our prime social network over the last few years. Personally I loved the fast pace, ever moving timeline, the constant updated information and primarily the distinct lack of adverts. In the past year however I have noticed the increase of in advertising embedded within the Twitter timeline.Not only that, but adverts seem to be tailor made to my tweets, making my account and information feel even more violated.

To state the obvious, these adverts are  incredibly annoying. But what I find even more backhanded about them is how some blend in so seamlessly into your feed. On numerous occasions I think it is a tweet by someone I follow, go to click the link thinking its a picture, but get redirected to some irritating third party website about something completely irrelevant.

The latest social media trend which can be found on every teenager’s phone is Snapchat. Many young people have been moving away from Facebook recently and apps such as Snapchat are being classed as the cause. But this photo sharing app has been unable to escape the controversy over the invasion of unwanted adverts. I first noticed this annoying habit around the World Cup this summer with endless “Rio 2014” updates flashing up almost hourly.

A search on Twitter however, reveals other peoples grievances with the invasive advertising started way back in October last year.

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Today alone the App has three “Live” adverts placed on peoples homepages, College Football, Oktoberfest and iHeartRadio Festival. I have refused to open all three on principle, I think we should have a choice whether these adverts flash up without our consent.

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Instagram was another mobile app which seemed to be relatively free from marketing faux pas, until today. A post by the creators announced that they will soon be launching in-app adverts on user timelines, an announcement which invaded user timelines this morning, ironically. And although there will be the ability to hide the adverts one by one it still feels like the last advert-free site will no longer be safe from invasive and targeted broadcasts.

Though just a young teenager at the time I still remember the days of MySpace and MSN. We all used it purely to interact with friends and I don’t recall ever being bombarded with annoying Candy Crush flashing banners on every page. “Just get AdBlock” I hear you cry, obviously I have already done this but it’s impossible to escape all of these advertising assaults.

Social media seems to have lost the original purpose for why it was created. It was intended to be an online platform for social interaction and making new connections. But progressively it seems to be developing into one large battle arena for the biggest and wealthiest businesses to buy up the advertising space and use our pages and profiles to push out their latest products. Obviously I am not naive to the fact these companies have to make a profit somehow, but currently they seem to be losing at striking the balance between generating money and not alienating their market.

By Lizzie Roberts

[Image Credit: Robert S. Donovan]


2 thoughts on “Social Media Sites Have Lost Their Purpose

  1. Great post Lizzie! I do however beg to disagree a little bit. It’s true that we are flooded with adverts like never before, but if you think about it only a few social media platforms were “only” designed to connected with friends and family. Possibly nowadays, only Facebook is mostly used to connect with our beloved ones.
    Most of the other social platforms have a main different purpose. Twitter is an excellent platform to connect with media and news, and Linkedin to browse for jobs, Instagram is mostly to share your pictures and Spotify to listen to music.
    Also, never before you were able to connect and interact with companies and products to share your views or annoyance through social platforms.
    Connect with our close ones is probably the smallest part of the social media networks.
    Nevertheless I feel your pain and your point of view which is shared by many others.
    Keep up with the good work!

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