Business

A Mea Culpa On Healthy Social Media

Last year, a woefully mistaken tech pundit predicted we would see healthy alternatives to today’s social media giants crop up in startup-land.

Actually, that was me. In a 2018 forecast piece published roughly a year ago, I opined that:

“Digital technology is roughly in the same state as 1970s cooking. Yes, we’ve made it convenient, easy on the palate, and affordable to the masses. Yet much like TV dinners and Twinkies, there’s something about the modern state of smartphone addiction, Facebook scrolling, and Netflix binging that makes us feel there’s a cost to convenience.”

The above still holds true a year later. Yet, for some reason, I thought there might be a surge in startups promoting healthier use of technology emerging out of the broader backlash. In that respect, I was either premature or plain wrong.

At least for now, the healthy alternative to Facebook and Twitter continues to be no Facebook and no Twitter. If not that, then at least heavily reduced scrolling time. Go for a walk. Talk to another human face-to-face. Eat vegetables. Stop looking at your phone.

Encouraging Signs

To be fair, there has been a bit of funding for companies promoting healthy use of digital media. For instance meditation app Calm closed a $27 million Series A round this summer, one of a number of mindfulness-focused startups to secure funding in the past couple years.

Media companies concerned with privacy have been getting funded as well. For instance, so far this year, at least 65 messaging, communications or media companies that include “private” or “privacy” in the business descriptions in of their Crunchbase profiles have raised funding rounds of $1 million or more. However, that’s actually down a bit from 2017, with just over 70 funded companies fitting the same criteria.

It seems the notion that one industry player’s loss translates into another’s gain also doesn’t always work out in practice. Take Facebook, whose well-publicized troubles this past year have taken its stock down nearly 40 percent from its 52-week highs, shedding nearly $220 billion (!) in market cap since July.

A glass-half-full kind of startup person might imagine that some of that diminishing market cap would create an opening for others in the social media sector to scale and potentially even draw investments from disgruntled former Facebook backers.

But looking at what’s happened since, it seems the glass half empty types got it right. It appears that valuation is gone. And, just like the air in a popped bubble, it cannot be recaptured.

iStockPhoto / bombuscreative