Social Media and Globalism

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New social media platforms come and go all the time but it seems like a few mainstays have developed. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin (though Twitter DOES have its doomsayers) have established themselves as internet standards, while smaller platforms struggle to gain an audience. Networks like Peach, ello, and Vine (RIP) struggle to gain users and generate profits. But the social media giants like Facebook aren’t just snuffing out small-time social media platforms in the west, they’re crossing international boarders and taking over the networking scene on a global scale.

I’m not sure what the average age in our class is, but when I was growing up, the big social network was Nexopia. This platform was very regional in that it was made by Edmontonians, and was designed to be used by Edmontonians. It grew slowly and expanded to serve a lot of Western Canada. And at the same time, Facebook was growing to serve a wider user-base than its initial target of Harvard University students. The regional social media borders expanded, and when they met, Facebook eclipsed Nexopia, and many other regional social networks along with it. I’m not sure what Facebook had that managed to draw so many users away from Nexopia. Maybe Facebook had better functionality, or maybe it had the appeal of a wider reach. Maybe Facebook just had fewer child predators than Nexopia. Hard to say. I was too young to be thinking about such things at the time, and unfortunately, not many people are writing think pieces about Nexopia these days.

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What is interesting to me, is that this trend is continuing all across the globe. As the gif above shows, the regional social media platforms are slowly disappearing and being replaced by Facebook as the dominant platform the world over. Second and third place is going to platforms like Instagram, Twitter, or Linkedin. I see this as a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, if the whole world is on Facebook rather than smaller regional platforms, then the whole world is more connected. Regional differences don’t impede upon communication. But then, there is the darker side of globalism. Nexopia may not have been perfect (there really were a lot of child predators on there), but its design was a reflection of Western Canadian culture. There was a uniqueness present in its functionalities that was untouched and unchallenged by the whims of Silicon Valley tech giants. Fifteen years ago, when social media was first taking off, every culture had their own brand of online communication. It may seem like a small thing, but imagine if Italian food eclipsed all other regional cuisines and became the new world standard for food. Imagine if all buildings started being designed according to Saudi architectural standards. These wouldn’t be the worst things to happen, but they would make the world a lot less interesting.

China is in a unique position here, as the government controls access to the internet and blocks off a lot of western social media sites. They don’t block social media though. Region-specific platforms like Renren and Sina Weibo are thriving, and have a unique cultural flavour about them, as they are unimpeded by competition from Facebook. Of course this is censorship, and very contrary to our own values here in Canada. But from a standpoint of cultural preservation, it’s not that different from Canadian initiatives like CBC and the CRTC. I’m not advocating for any kind of cultural isolationism here, but if we view social media platforms as a cultural form, then it’s worth thinking about what is being lost through the ubiquity and dominance of Facebook.

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3 thoughts on “Social Media and Globalism

  1. I found this post pretty interesting based on the fact that I actually grew up in Western Canada but in a different region, the Yukon Territory. I have actually never heard of Nexopia (well maybe in passing) nor known anyone to use it! The platform people in my high school used before Facebook was Bebo. Which I had actually sort of forgot about, so it is funny how like you say social media platforms can come and go. Yet, platforms such as Facebook are pretty much here to stay for the most part. In a way with Facebook, it’s sort of like they finally figured it out a universal communication platform and now that everyone uses it, it will most likely stay that way!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post Robert. I am definitely spent a significant amount of my adolescent years on Nexopia. Looking back at it retrospectively — now that we are in the age of FB — I can appreciate the local appeal with platforms such as Nexopia. I have friends that I hang out with today that I met through Nexopia. I would use it to connect with other local teenagers who were into the same music as me and we would go to local shows, etc.

    I think you nailed it on the head, though, with the “creep factor” that came along with Nexopia. I feel like as SM continued to grow smaller platforms such as Nexopia, just couldn’t keep up with the growing number of people who were utilizing this platform. I am not very active on Facebook, and a big reason for that is the fact that they are, in my opinion, too much of a business and not a network — selling ads, spoon feeding me the news, etc…

    I miss those smaller, cheesy online communities like Nexopia. Thanks for letting me reminisce of the good ol’ days of the internet!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The first time I joined Facebook, i was eight or nine years old. My mom had told me not to join that I was too young, but I didn’t listen anyway. it was around that time that I read in a newspaper about a girl that was murdered by a man she met on Facebook. This really shook me and made me realize just how dangerous social media is. I joined because my friends were on it, and even now that is one of that main reasons anyone joins social media.

    Like

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