All Social Media Is Becoming the Same

Social media apps’ attempts to appeal to wider audiences have led to an abandoning of their identity as they sacrifice viewers and creators alike.

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When TikTok blew up a few years ago, it popularized the most recent “unique” feature: extremely short, vertical videos that let users scroll for hours. Previously, long-form, horizontal content had been the norm, but uniqueness doesn’t last long with social media. Each platform jumped to try and rip off this new entertainment as a way to draw in TikTok’s vast audience. These days, social media excel at converting any and all such unique features, leading to a monotonous void of unoriginality.

Another example of this phenomenon is the popularization of stories. There are many names for this feature, but it typically offers the ability to post a short video or photo that only lasts for 24 hours. Snapchat was the first to propose this concept in 2013. Other social media apps envied Snapchat’s wide success and tried to find ways to replicate it themselves. Stories on Instagram and Facebook, now being picked up by TikTok as well, are these companies’ attempts to utilize Snapchat’s success and change how people interact with their interfaces.

Now, following TikTok’s success, social media apps have been on the hunt to utilize the latest unique feature: short, vertical videos. Each of the apps has its own way of bringing TikTok into their platforms, like Instagram and Facebook’s Reels or Pinterest’s Idea Pins. They’re almost all in the exact same format too: vertical videos with descriptions at the bottom that one can double tap to like or swipe up to find new content. This resemblance only serves to further emphasize the similarities in the apps and their approach to this feature.

The biggest problem with these new features is that they fundamentally change the way the apps work. The YouTube Shorts section appears at the top of the home page when the app opens, drawing in many different viewers. But it abandons the longer form videos YouTube has built its brand from, leading to endlessly shortening content and unoriginality. Coming full circle, TikTok has started to allow longer videos, attempting to mirror the content found on platforms like YouTube. Now, people have five apps on their phones with similar purposes that beg their attention.

This similarity forces you to be the outsider as you watch apps compete to try to become the best app. Many of the posts people see on the shorter video sections of apps are reposts or just trends. They all consist of the same influencers doing the same things. The environment the apps have cultivated is changing, led by the changing features.

For example, many YouTube creators who made longer videos now struggle to reach audiences, pushing them to lean into what everyone else is doing. In an interview with Creator Inside, a YouTube representative said that the algorithms for the shorts and longer videos are not linked, making it harder for creators to grow. This difficulty leads to channels attempting to follow trends to keep up with their disappearing audience, sapping the creativity and life from the overall environment of the app. The ability of social media to create all kinds of creative content is weakening as apps spread themselves thin to reach every audience.

As social media advances, it will continue to ignore creativity for the sake of profit, leading to an entire social network devoid of charm, with people who have been conditioned to follow the crowd. Instead, these apps should go back to their roots to try and separate what part of their product creates inspiration and what kills it. Focusing on the quality of the platform over profit is the only way for companies to fix this growing problem.

There is no point in having multiple apps with such unoriginal functions. It only leads to repetitive fatigue on the viewers’ part and the destruction of creators who try to build a base on their platform. The perfect app for all people does not exist, and each social media platform should instead hone in on one type of content that differentiates them. If they don’t, they will continue to go down this profit-driven path, leading to an exhausting experience for everyone involved. This competition between apps has not driven innovation but encouraged conformity.