There’s been a lot of chatter, in recent days, about the fate of a certain platform that deals mostly in text posts no longer than 280 characters. With a chaos agent now at the helm of Twitter, many people are understandably fretting about whether it could possibly control a rising tide of abuse, hate speech, pornography, spam, and other junk. But in a sense, these worries miss the point: In 2022, Twitter is small fry.
A far grander and more terrifying saga is unfolding on the endless video feeds that have become the dominant mode of social media today, drawing not millions but billions of monthly users on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. The Era of Video has definitively and irreversibly arrived.
Doubters might look to a recent clash between social-media royalty and Instagram leadership. Back in July, two Kardashians and a Jenner shared an Instagram image from the creator Tati Bruening calling on the platform to “stop trying to be tiktok.” In the history of social media, this was a bit like the 21st-century equivalent of nailing a pamphlet to a cathedral door. The protest referred in no uncertain terms to the company’s turn toward video, and away from its origins as a vehicle for still images. TikTok, of course, is almost entirely video—a relentlessly addictive scroll of auto-playing content, much of which comes from accounts you do not follow.
But not even some of the biggest influencers of all time could turn the tides. The day after their posts went up, Instagram’s CEO, Adam Mosseri, doubled down. “I need to be honest,” he said (in a video). “I do believe that more and more of Instagram is going to become video over time.”