It was great while it lasted, but social networking is going away.
The idea was that you could sign up for a social network like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr or Reddit and connect with old friends and acquaintances, make new ones or even interact with strangers about your life.
Except that Twitter was really a “micro-blogging” site, LinkedIn was about finding a job, Pinterest was a pinboard site, Instagram and Flickr were photo-sharing sites, Tumblr was a social-blogging platform, Reddit was a social bookmarking site and who knows whatGoogle+ ever was?
Let’s face it: Facebook was the only true major social network.
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But I’m not talking about the site, but the behavior. Social networking used to dominate all of those platforms.
And the social networking idea existed on all of those sites: conceived broadly, social networking sites were places for people to connect with other people and share their ideas, dreams, opinions, gossip and cat photos.
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What’s happening is that social networking is being replaced or supplanted by three things.
The first is messaging. Those darn millennials we’re always hearing about increasingly reject social networking on sites like Facebook in favor of messaging via apps like Snapchat.
Unlike social networking, messaging is private, temporary and immediate.
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The second is the general world of online distractions, including YouTube videos, games, articles, podcasts and more.
And the third is social media.
Confusion about the difference between social networking and social media is why most people haven’t noticed the decline of social networking. People don’t stop to think about the difference.
Social networking is personal content. Social media is professional content.
The sharing of social media — professionally produced videos, articles, podcasts and photos — is gradually replacing the sharing of personal content about one’s life.
For example, as you read my column, this article is being shared on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other so-called “social networking” sites. But that isn’t social networking; it’s social media.
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Micro-blogging, micro-schmogging. No matter what you call it, Twitter is included in every roundup, comparison or article about social networking. It’s universally included in the “social network” category.
That’s why it’s telling that Twitter last week reportedly recategorized itself in Apple’s App Store. The company removed its app from the “social networking” category and put it into the “news” category.
The move transformed Twitter from the No. 5 social networking app in the App Store to the No. 1 news app. The move also redefines Twitter: It’s no longer a place where people connect with other people to talk about their lives; it’s now a place where people get news.
Twitter is telling us that Twitter is no longer about social networking. Twitter is now about social media. And Twitter probably wouldn’t have made the move if the social networking category was burning with relevance.