Social networks to watch in 2023

Last year was not easy in the world of social networks. A rash billionaire bought Twitter in favor of a controversial redefinition of freedom of expression, users abandoned Meta for the first time in its history, and TikTok continued its unbridled growth… We are just beginning to measure the consequences of these events. of course it affects 2023.

Position So here’s an overview of the trends to watch this year, including platforms like Mastodon, which are increasingly emerging as alternatives to Twitter, concerns about the politicization of certain social networks, and (still) growing political pressure on Chinese giant TikTok.

Logging out of Twitter, really?

Following Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, public figures worried about the platform’s future — Whoopi Goldberg, Jim Carrey, and Elton John, to name a few — simply abandoned it. It is the same story among some journalists, politicians and academics who use the social network for professional purposes.

“If Twitter had been bought by Facebook or Google, we would have had some disbelief, but we knew what to expect,” says Nadia Seraiocco, a social networks specialist and PhD student and lecturer at UQAM. But the platform was bought by an eccentric billionaire whose idea of ​​freedom of expression does not suit everyone, even less journalists. »

Recall that Elon Musk recently suspended the accounts of journalists and banned all his users from sharing links to competing sites before restoring them after a request sent to his subscribers.

However, the migration from the platform that many expected did not happen. The sulfur owner tweeted in November that Twitter usage had reached “all-time highs” since the takeover. The Verge and Financial Times later confirmed that the number of “daily cash users” had increased by more than 20% to a total of over 250 million.

Mastodon, free and decentralized

Despite this upward trend – it is not yet clear whether it will be sustainable – more and more professionals and users who identify with digital subcultures are turning to Mastodon and other free networks. .

“We are seeing a resurgence of interest in Mastodon,” said Mr.I Seraiocco. This social network is similar to Twitter, but it unites small federated communities that can reach hundreds of thousands of members. »

The German platform grew by more than a million users in November, surpassed two million active users in early December, and fell back to 1.8 million in the first week of January. Hive Social, Cohost, and CounterSocial also saw increases in user numbers.

“Mastodon won’t become what you hate on Twitter, which means it could be sold to a controversial billionaire, shut down, go bankrupt, etc.,” Eugen said. Financial Times the end of December. This is a difference of paradigms [entre les deux plateformes]. »

Digital literacy and politicization

MI Seraiocco clarifies that “digital literacy” should continue to grow in 2023, and this phenomenon could contribute to the expansion of this world’s Mastodon. “These networks are often called open networks open source. They have always been traditionally difficult to access, difficult to understand. Today, it seems that we can use more efficient applications with the help of more people. »

A growing understanding of how social media algorithms work could lead to more dissatisfaction with traditional platforms like Facebook and Twitter in 2023, Ms said, because of their increased focus on misleading political content.I Seraiocco.

“Today, there is information that the major social networks are business enterprises,” he said. These companies generally do not have to adhere to the same ethical guidelines as traditional media. […] They can even decide to lean right or left, emphasizing certain content more than others. And it’s often from the right, because we see more emotion in messages from the right, which crystallizes more attachment. Therefore, we understand that if we want to be properly informed, we may have to look for other ways. »

Is TikTok at a crossroads?

MI Seraiocco also notes that this awareness must go hand in hand with growing political pressure on TikTok, which has been accused by the American political class of being a tool for espionage.

“Our governments will likely face significant lobbying efforts from Facebook and Google to hold TikTok to account, as these US giants must allocate billions to the media and further regulate their content,” he said. For now, TikTok does what it wants. »

In a pre-holiday press release, Justin Trudeau said “people are very concerned about TikTok” and that Canadian intelligence services would monitor potential security threats.

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