META AND MILDLIFE CRISES

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With the option to create reels finally being made available in Sri Lanka, you too may be noticing the change in your Instagram feed. It seems even Meta isn’t immune to the wave of change that has swept the internet post-TikTok.

If you are one of the over 1.55 million active users on Instagram in Sri Lanka, you might have noticed your feed increasingly being populated with vertical videos similar to TikTok, as well as being recommended more content from creators that you do not follow. If you post and create content, you might have also noticed images taking a backseat while reels being favoured by Instagram’s algorithm as well. While this certainly brings in new opportunities for creators, it has also received considerable backlash from existing creators.

“Make Instagram, Instagram again,” the war cry by leading creators and others who aren’t fancying Meta’s decision for Instagram, and with the massive pushback, Meta has had no choice but to take a step back. But many point out that this push back has only delayed the inevitable.

Growing pains

Instagram deciding to give heavier emphasis is only one chapter in the rocky recent history of the popular social media platform and its parent company, Facebook now rebranded as Meta. Facebook’s popularity among the youth has certainly diminished, and although Instagram’s retention of youth is still stable, it might also be on the decline as it struggles to remain relevant whilst trying to shrug off the slew of negative association Meta has.

With a steadily declining number of active users and youth joining the platforms, Instagram and Facebook especially are now facing the threat of an aging user base, and with the two platforms struggling to remain relevant, and Zuckerberg’s vision for the Metaverse still far in the horizon, it seems the once king of social media networks is slipping off its throne.

Strong competition

Another reason behind Meta’s decline is arguably the availability of other tech services that offer greater functionality that Meta has failed to replicate in their ecosystem. TikTok has a scarily accurate algorithm that leaves IG reels in the dust, Facebook’s livestreaming functionality pales in comparison to Twitch, and the same can be said when comparing YouTube in terms of on demand video, and Twitter when it comes to updating content and regular posts.

With strong competition that the youth are more inclined to subscribe to, and already are, Meta might be losing the battle for dominance among the common generations, but that doesn’t mean it’s still out of the fight.

Mr Worldwide

This is mainly because of Meta’s continued dominance in emerging markets such as South East Asia and South Asia. Although even in these markets there does exist a decline, it isn’t as sharp or drastic in comparison to user bases in the West.

A good example for this would be Sri Lanka. Our South Asian nation is home to nearly 22 million people, of whom according to Hootsuite and we are social’s most recent analytics, over 11 million use the internet and 8.2 million social media users. Not only that, over 500,000 Sri Lankans started using the internet the previous year.

In developing nations where internet penetration is still increasing, and more people start accessing the internet, they will start needing to access and use social media, which is an opportunity that Meta would have the advantage on, and continue to build up on. But as to whether attracting more users from developing nations will translate into substantial profit, is still something that I myself am unsure about.

Staying fresh

Although opportunity still exists in emergency markets, Meta is very focused on addressing its aging user base and is making a considerable effort to attract new users. Although there are certain leaks that have revealed snippets of what Meta’s plans may be for the future of its social media platforms, only time will tell what the future has in store for Meta. Will it find a way to stay fresh and regain the trust and hearts of the youth, or will it wilt and fall away into irrelevancy, as have many tech giants in the past.

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage