The Future of Social Media: Identity Dispersion and the Rise of Pseudonymous Platforms

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Sep 11, 2023

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The Future of Social Media: Identity Dispersion and the Rise of Pseudonymous Platforms

In today's world, social media platforms like YouTube have become dominant forces in the realm of "media," but what about the world of "social networking"? To truly become the reigning champion in the world of social media, a platform must cater to the participation of everyday individuals. With the advancement of technology, such as smartphones evolving into smart glasses, the barriers to capturing moments through photography are significantly reduced. As Apple's smart glasses become more prevalent, freeing us from holding smartphones to capture moments, what comes next?

Initially, platforms like Instagram and TikTok will incorporate immersive videos that fill the user's field of view. However, we can expect startups to emerge specializing in synchronous (real-time) consumption experiences, moving away from the asynchronous consumption of full-field-of-view videos. These startups will aim to dominate the world of social media, focusing on platforms that encourage contributions from everyday individuals rather than acting as traditional media outlets like YouTube.

But what if we take a different approach and design our online identities from scratch? This concept, known as "identity dispersion," presents an intriguing possibility. Instead of the context collapse prevalent on the internet today, individuals would have control over creating, separating, and unifying their multiple online personas. In a presentation given in 2019, Balaji Srinivasan introduced the idea of a pseudonymous economy, where individuals can build reputations using persistent, non-real names, accumulating what he calls "social wealth."

By protecting individuals from online attacks, we can move closer to a meritocracy where the best ideas prevail, free from biases. With the rise of multiplayer web-based tools for productivity and creativity, individuals can engage in valuable knowledge work without exposing their physical appearances. They can collaborate and contribute without the need for real names, opening up opportunities for marginalized individuals to find communities where they feel a sense of belonging.

In this pseudonymous future, individuals will experiment with multiple pseudonyms, becoming part of various communities that may seem inconsistent at first glance. These pseudonyms will allow us to embrace our multifaceted selves and bridge the gaps between seemingly segregated communities. As pseudonyms become more verifiable, they gain value. Web3 platforms can verify not only inventory, such as money and digital goods but also transaction history, attendance records, and content creation. As we engage in work and contribute to organizations and communities under our pseudonyms, these identities become increasingly valuable.

However, it is essential to acknowledge that pseudonymity does enable trolls and presents significant challenges. Critics argue that a pseudonymous future may give rise to more online harassment and toxic behavior. Striking a balance between pseudonymity and accountability is crucial to creating a safe and inclusive online environment.

In conclusion, the future of social media lies in platforms that empower everyday individuals to participate actively, rather than relying solely on traditional media outlets. The concept of identity dispersion, with its potential for a pseudonymous economy, offers a new way for individuals to control their online personas and engage in valuable knowledge work. As we embrace this future, here are three actionable pieces of advice:

  • 1. Embrace pseudonymity: Experiment with multiple pseudonyms and explore different communities that align with your multifaceted self.
  • 2. Support verifiable pseudonyms: Contribute to platforms that enable verification of pseudonyms, ensuring the accumulation of social wealth and reputation.
  • 3. Advocate for a safe and inclusive online environment: Encourage platforms to strike a balance between pseudonymity and accountability, creating spaces where individuals can freely express their ideas without fear of harassment or toxicity.

By embracing these principles, we can shape a future where social media platforms foster genuine participation, empower marginalized voices, and promote a more inclusive online society.

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