It’s common knowledge that trust is one of the hardest things to gain and easiest to lose, and when it’s broken, it’s even more difficult to win back.
Evidently, this statement is true in more than just our interactions with each other.
We can lose faith in our favourite brands when they push a bad product solely for profit.
We stop listening to beloved musicians when they release consecutive bad albums after choosing to “sell out”.
And now, more than ever, does the same hold true for the social media platforms we use today.
Over the past decade, the number of social media users has tripled, from 1 Billion, to over 3 Billion active users worldwide.
This enormous growth brought innovation, opportunity and connectivity to every corner of the globe.
A new era had begun, one where the internet had finally kicked into high gear.
Even in the midst of the economic crisis, there was an underlying feeling of optimism when it came to our new smart devices.
The only looming concern was one of “responsibility,” a buzz word not usually heard when it comes to social media.
Naturally, we signed up to the social hubs we know and sometimes loathe today.
We ticked the boxes, hurdled over the terms and conditions, lied about our age, and clicked “Sign up”.
But what were we actually signing up for?
I seriously doubt that my 2010-era self could have fathomed the advert churning, eavesdropping, vampirical info-sucking society we find ourselves in now.
We forgot to heed the famous folklore-ish warning: “Nothing good comes for free”, and now more than ever, does that statement ring true.
When you’re not being sold to, you are what is being sold.
Be it national election scandals, scarily relevant targeted ads or sensitive information leaks, we have all felt the ever increasing effects of the algorithmic webs we’ve been tangled in.
So, in light of the current controversies, I would like to pose the question:
“Trust in technology, is it possible?”
In short: “Yes”
Let me explain: Our relationship with many of the social media sites we use today seemed too good to be true.
It was, and still is. But that isn't necessarily saying that change isn't possible.
As with every great advancement, there comes a “feeling out” period, a time where mistakes are made.
Once upon a time, cars had no seat belts and make-up contained lead.
Looking back, it’s natural that we may grimace at the thought of such barbarity, but for the time it was completely natural.
Only over time does our knowledge grow, our awareness of these issues, and our belief that such things need to change.
Looking at Facebook as an example, we’ve seen countless headlines about our personal data being shared, our movements being tracked, and our messages being read.
I think it’s safe to say that this is not what we want from our chosen form of electronic communication.
I think for some companies, and more importantly, certain CEO’s, the ship has sailed. Trust is gone and not coming back any time soon.
Where things do start to take a turn for the positive however, is the new wave of socially-conscious “Ethical entrepreneurs” that are sprouting up all over the globe.
No longer does the Silicon Valley narrative of “profits over privacy” resonate in the 2020’s.
Many tech start-ups are innovating to find new socially conscious ways to monetize their companies.
Look at Telegram’s reasonable subscription options, TapeReal’s game-changing "Exclusives" feature, and Picsart’s freemium filters strategy.
Each of these apps offer a fully fledged experience without farming of data, without costing an arm and a leg, and most importantly, without going against their own ideals and core values.
I whole-heartedly believe that “trust” will be the new currency in the coming decade, a time where long-lasting community-brand relationships will have both parties rely on each other symbiotically.
Where brand alliance will rest solely on the level of trust set by the brand itself.
This is a considerably more sustainable business model, one where the community comes first.
No more addiction-reliant practices and 007-worthy spying controversies.
The 2010’s will unfortunately be remembered as the decade where social media participants were forcibly named “users”.
I cross my fingers in the hope that in the coming years we’ll make the transition into becoming “members'' or at the very least feel as such.
The social media platforms of tomorrow are shaping to be seen as places, rather than substances.
Shared, rather than consumed.
And this is something worth holding out for.