Google may have gone one—or two or three—steps too far withits new Buzz social network,automatically exposing the e-mail contacts of unwitting Google users to othersand failing to ask users if they wanted to opt in for the service. Facebook seems to change its design andlayout every month or so now, consistently raising the ire of its members. Hulu is challenging YouTube for eyes-on-screens, and live mobilevideo is challenging all sites that are anchored to the desktop.

In short, social media—much like Congress—have erupted intoan awful lot of infighting and are producing an awful lot of disgruntledconstituents. We should have expected nothing less, given the history of mediaover the past 50 years or so. Once “adult westerns” became popular, it was hardto find anything else on TV, until viewers became oversaturated with ten-gallongunfights. The same thing happened with quiz shows and medical show and (we canonly hope) is likely to happen with reality shows.

None of these fads has disappeared, but only the best havesurvived. In the social media arena, we should anticipate a similar arc. Thebest of these networks and sharing sites will endure and the ones that rush ontothe screen to try to gain some quick high ratings are likely to fall asabruptly as an unbalanced snowcross competitor. Where should we be investingour time, our tweets, our “friend”ships and our leisure time if we want tocreate a loyal and long-lasting relationship with our media?

While we can’t predict the winners, chances are that thesocial media that will be around years from now will have these fivecharacteristics:

  1. They will respect the members of their community. They won’tbe arbitrarily enrolling them in programs that members don’t want to join orconstantly changing their face and their interface.
  2. They will be easy to use. The networks that last willrequire members simply to log in, without needing to worry about the capacityof their computer, the speed of their network or the right tab to click toshare a photo.
  3. They will be adaptable to ANY communicationsdevice—especially mobile ones—through any mode of communication. If we canchoose a CD cut simply by talking to our car, we should be able to post amessage on a social site by talking to our smartphone. If we can enlarge aphoto with gestures, we should be able to comment on a post with the flick of ahand.
  4. Their content and uses will appeal to everyone, juniors andseniors, students and professionals, Yankees and Rebels, Wolverines andBuckeyes. There is no target audience for the telephone, the radio, or thecomputer as a medium—each simply exists as part of our lives and everyone usesthem without a second thought. We won’t be dithering over what content belongson which site in the future—they will be utilities, rather than novelties.
  5. They will eventually be supplanted by the next technologicaldevelopment. Yes, I know, TV did not kill radio; but CDs and DVDs killed audiotapeand videotape, digital music is killing CDs, online services are killing printpublications, and mobile phones are killing landlines. There’s no reason tobelieve that some new, even more all-encompassing technology won’t evolve toobliterate social media at some point and bring us all together a little moreharmoniously and easily.

— Steve Friedman