Stagnation is also the inevitable result of a commercialized social and civic space, built only to grow. Being stuck is not the same as “needing to be here to work,” but it is not entirely different either.
An instructive way to think about this is to imagine each social network as a version of LinkedIn, the platform that usefully elucidates the gap between what we think of as social platforms (feeds) and what we imagine to be more commercial platforms (something like eBay ).
LinkedIn, it’s fair to say, offers an unpleasant experience for some of its users, demanding work, attention, and particular styles of performance, all while subjecting them to upsells, focus-capturing notifications, and a never-ending stream of hiring content. job search and related topics. Many people joined for a reason: It was a new place to find work or hire people. Years later, however, they are stagnant. Leaving has a fuzzy but material cost, even for happy employees, and LinkedIn’s dominance has ensured that this cost remains, if not high, at least real enough to discourage departure. Now, consider what distinguishes LinkedIn from Facebook or Instagram. Some “mechanics”? The intentions of users when registering?
None of this is to say that the attention of the stuck is not directed elsewhere, to newer platforms that foster new types of communication with newly assembled networks of people. Joining and forming other networks is one of the most obvious responses to feeling stagnant, even if it portends new varieties of stagnation in the future. TikTok and Discord, for example, offered mechanics and experiences that Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram didn’t, at least initially. However, for those already stuck, these nets are usually add-ons, not replacements.
Among some tech investors, this kind of stagnation has inspired a new vision of what happens to platforms in the long term: not a death spiral, but the slow bleeding of time and attention from more focused competitors, through which Users remain present, distracted, but more importantly, available to re-enter (consider the rise of Facebook groups in recent years or the continued growth of Facebook Marketplace). Users who stick around to talk about how much they hate sticking around is just a stalemate that plays.
This type of stagnation is not permanent or entirely unexpected, but it is characterized by lasting longer than expected. And while acknowledging one’s stagnation may not make it easy to leave a social media platform, it has other benefits.
If nothing else, it is a more genuine form of connection with our fellow user than any mechanic generated by the platform can provide – a shared feeling that this, whatever it is, is not what we signed up for.