Will the social media bubble burst? Will Facebook and Twitter become like Lehman Brothers and Northern Rock? Would the government bailout LinkedIn? Just imagine waking up to find that LinkedIn has been declared bankrupt could there even be a run on assets a la Northern Rock, could you take your connections and your profile with you?
From a Marxist perspective markets are inherently unstable, boom and bust is built into their DNA. What adds to the situation is how digital companies separate use and sales. In more traditional model of business customers and sales are tightly linked, in social media they are radically separated. Twitter for example which has around four times as many users as the UK population is still struggling to make money and saw it’s stock tumble this week following it quarterly results.
Now I’m not predicting this will happen. To quote Niels Bohr “prediction is very difficult, especially when its about the future.” I just want to raise the issue as I think it’s an interesting one to reflect on in light of how we live and enact careers. You could see over the last 10 – 15 years digital enclosure has swept through our lives. Digital enclosure talks about how digital technology has been very successful in persuading up to give up things that were common to people and owned by them and in some way given them up to the market. How we organise our social lives, how we exchange information, how we build professional networks are increasingly being put in the hands of Facebook, Twitter LinkedIn, WordPress et al.
This raises two questions for us; what do we think about this and what will we do about this. Do we think this is just the way of the world and there is nothing we can do about it? Do we think this actually a good things as social media sites allow us to do these things better? Or do we feel uncomfortable about giving away these social aspects to profit making organisations. And how dow e feel about htease thing sin light of any instability there is in social media companies?
And what will we do about this? Will we stop using these sites? Look to take more control of our digital identity through building personal web pages we host ourselves and so on? Or will we look ways to move our online relationship back into the real world so we can take more control of them?
Some food for thought…