11 Predictions on the future of social media

Once upon a time, there was no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube. Our lives did not revolve around a stream of status updates, tweets, videos and filtered photos. That was just 10 years ago.

Since Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook in his Harvard dorm room on Feb. 4, 2004, we've seen social media evolve from a fad to a phenomenon that has triggered a paradigm shift in the way the world communicates. It has empowered individuals to voice their opinions and concerns and share content on their mobile devices in ways no one could have imagined. Along the way, geopolitics and the world of business has been radically transformed.

We saw the dramatic impact social media wielded four years ago. It was a tool that helped spark the Arab Spring—a democratic civil uprising in the Middle East that began in Tunisia in December 2010 that helped force rulers from power in such countries as Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Thanks to Twitter and other social media, people were able to protest and raise awareness in the face of repression. The revolution continues.

No doubt, the power of social media is exponential. Numbers tell the story. Today there are 1.3 billion active Facebook users, with 82 percent of them coming from outside the U.S. and Canada. Twitter boasts 270 million active users that send 500 million tweets per day. And each day, 4 billion videos are viewed on YouTube (that's 46,296 per second) and 60 million photos are uploaded on Instagram.

The trend has helped these tech disruptors go public at hefty valuations. Facebook, for example, went public in 2012. At the time, it was the biggest in technology and Internet history, with a peak market capitalization of more than $104 million. At press time it had reached a whopping $206.4 billion.

Fast-forward to the future, and we should see global social media usage continue on its upward trajectory. In just four years, eMarketer projects it will nearly double by 32.7 percent. By then 2.44 billion of the world's population will be on social networks.

While estimates through 2039 are not available, experts agree that by then, use of social media will be ubiquitous and integrated into our daily lives in a multitude of ways. It is expected social media will be integrated into wearables that track our habits, and virtual experiences will be part of the package. The challenge will be coping with the massive amounts of data that will deluge the masses.

While there's no crystal ball, we asked industry experts to give us their predictions on the future of social media.

Scroll through to see the "11 Predictions for Social Media in 2039"...

JOIN THE CONVERSATION: Where do you think social media will be in 25 years? Share your prediction using #Social25.

"When news breaks in the future, it will be covered by a multitude of eyewitnesses streaming live video. These streams will knit together into a single immersive video, enabling the viewer to virtually experience the event in real time. For better or worse, the world will feel like it’s right around the corner." -Cory Bergman, BreakingNews Co-Founder
"In 2039 we'll be reading a fascinating long read about the last remaining social media expert. The article will describe that like a 2014 typewriter repairman, this expert is running around helping luddites who still try to communicate with antiquated social networks. While younger readers will need to look up words like "tweet," "Instagram" and "Snapchat" using their brain augmentation devices, those of us over 50 will feel a twinge of nostalgia as we ingest the article while our self-driving hovercrafts transport us." -Gregory Galant, Creator of the Shorty Awards
Credit: Amelia Alpaugh

"I think that anything we talk about in 25 years is going to sound like science fiction. Mobile is the first step toward the portable future of social media and how we consume it, and I think wearables will be a big part of that. I can see it evolving into an implanted device in our bodies that will connect to everything around us. I know that sounds crazy, but what we’re seeing now in the industry is at the tip of the iceberg in terms of sharing our personal experiences. I think you’ll be able to share a taste, a sensation and a smell. I think a shared consciousness and a version of telepathic communication is all very likely. It may sound a little loopy but, hey, Neuromancer is one of my favorite books, and I've enthusiastically been to a Star Trek convention—so, yeah.

Imagine shopping an e-commerce store with a friend, virtually trying things on your avatar that's representative of your likeness and conversing in real time with that friend, all while on the go in different places.

We're already seeing increased personalization, more individual-to-individual communication, more humanlike algorithms and more specified, diverse social platforms. I think those trends will continue in the future. I see more of a divide happening between socializing and publishing via social media, and platforms like Facebook that merge the two will probably need to pick a lane and change significantly."

- Piera Gelardi, Refinery 29, Creative Director
"Twenty-five years from now, the way in which we both input and observe media will have completely shifted. Keyboards on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones will become increasingly irrelevant, as interactions on what was once called social media will largely be voice-controlled. Holographic displays will be shifting into the mainstream, making the debate between the benefits of a 4-inch vs. a 4.7-inch smartphone display a thing of the past." -Jeremy Goldman, Author of “Going Social,” Firebrand Group CEO
"My bet is that social will be less about standalone apps and websites and more about the “piping” of the Internet. In the future the Internet will operate more like electricity does today, as an unseen part of the infrastructure around us that we notice only when it’s not present. This will put more pressure on advertisers, marketers, and big thinkers to spread their messages in a genuinely interesting and useful way, since they’ll be less able to rely on interruptive display ads to get people’s attention. But the same trend will also allow these same people to precisely target the exact niche they’re speaking to." -Sarah Green, Harvard Business Review, Senior Associate Editor and Host of HBR Ideacast

Communication in the future will be built on the foundation started by what is today called social media, but it will look much different.

The most dramatic change by 2039 will not only be the amount of data that will be available to everyone but also the decision-making power of that data. We currently have thermostats that learn our preferences, watches that take our pulse, and Nike even knows how often and how fast we run, and this is just the beginning.

With this much data, personalized content will become the norm. I love unfiltered feeds, but in the future, when the depth of data available meets the ability to make decisions based off of that data, the result will be a very individualized and powerful experience. People will be able to get the content they want, at the time they want, from the people and brands they want, perhaps even on their projector watch or contact lens.

- Otis Kimzey, Simply Measured, Director

"The term social media will fade out and become a mass media form in 25 years. By then, there will be three major trends. First, there will be more personal ownership of data. Second, individuals will be able to manage data across platforms in a more centralized way. Third, there will be extremely speedy mobile wireless broadband built into even the most affordable devices to allow one-touch and instant playback of any piece of content."

-Matthew Knell, About.com, VP Social Media & Community

"I’m pretty sure every time Apple’s designers want to come up with a new product, they go into a room and watch Inspector Gadget. The 80’s cartoon, as you might recall, featured the eponymous detective solving case after case with the help of his tech-savvy niece Penny, who seemingly lugged around early versions of both an iPad and an iWatch.

But Gadget’s real skill came from his endless collection of wearables. He had everything from a helicopter built into his head to roller skates melded into his feet. They were as much a part of Gadget as his floppy hat or his overcoat—they felt like natural extensions of the man himself.

That’s largely how I envision social media in the future. It will become part of the fabric of our clothes, part of the glasses we wear and the shoes we put on, and the gadgets we no longer see as gadgets but as part of our very selves. Social will measure, but sharing will become more passive in the process; it won’t require any effort on our part to share any part of our lives.

I say this knowing full well that to me this future is absolutely horrifying. It sounds more like an episode of “The Twilight Zone” than one of Inspector Gadget, and I really hope it doesn’t come true. But as gadgets get smaller and we become more comfortable with quantifying more of ourselves, I suspect people like me will fade away, or at least be whispering, “Go, go gadget anonymity.”"

- Melody Kramer, NPR Digital Strategist and Editor at NPR
"Wearables will completely replace tablets, and social media will hyper-accelerate Big Data. Social media will allow publishers and brands to focus on the story rather than the telling of it. WhatsApp, SnapChat, Line and others will continue to open up avenues to reach millennials, but who knows if the social platforms of today will even exist in 25 years!" -Niketa Patel, Rebelmouse, Director of Content
"All I do all week is look at my phone, reading articles, liking posts, sending emails/tweets/messages. In the future, I will "disconnect" by putting on Oculus virtual reality glasses when I get home—and suddenly I'll be sitting courtside at the Knicks game with my Facebook friends. You can’t make it to the beach in Italy on Tuesday night after a hard day of work, but you can achieve a very similar emotional effect of being there via Oculus glasses while on your terrace with a glass of wine. VR helps you disconnect by putting you in a new, fully immersive world, and it will transform every industry—concerts, sporting events, education, tourism, travel, business meetings, doctor appointments and more." -Jason Stein, Laundry Service Founder & President

"I think that [social media] will be more integrated into everything.

As you think further down the road, I don’t think that there’s going to be something called social media that people will be talking about in 30 years. I’m not even sure if people will be talking about it in five years."

- Ellie Wheeler, Greycroft Partners, Principal

(Disclaimer:NBC News owns BreakingNews)

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