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By now, you’ve probably heard the hype about super-fast 5G networks. Listen to any of the big tech companies building out the 5G networks of tomorrow, and they’ll explain all the reasons why 5G technology could be so transformative. Imagine a world filled with driverless cars, a robust Internet of Things, doctors performing remote surgeries and smart buildings. With that in mind, how will 5G reshape the way we use social media?
The most obvious answer, of course, is “more video.” As of 2019, Internet video already accounted for 80 percent of all website traffic, and this figure will likely grow even more. Imagine watching super high-resolution videos with absolutely no download times, no buffering problems, and no bandwidth issues. We’ll all be livestreaming on Facebook, posting video Stories on Instagram, and doing video chats or video conferencing with our friends.
But video is just the tip of the iceberg, really. The really exciting part about 5G could be the creation of super-realistic experiences powered by AR or VR. Right now, it’s simply not feasible, due to bandwidth issues, to create large-scale, 360-degree experiences with all sorts of features that fully engage all of our senses (not just our vision). Imagine an immersive, 360-degree virtual tourism experience, in which you are able to touch, feel, smell and see all the sights and sounds around you. Even better, imagine an ultra-realistic video game experience that you play with others in your social network. With that in mind, the next great social media companies could be a company like Microsoft, which is touting its new HoloLens technology. And, of course, Facebook could still become a VR powerhouse, given its huge acquisition of Oculus.
The social networks of 5G might be filled with social objects and not people. You might have a very different type of relationship with your driverless car of tomorrow, especially if it begins to become an entertainment and mobile business hub for you. Who knows? Maybe instead of sending social media posts from your local Starbucks coffee shop to friends and family, you’ll be sending social media updates from your driverless car to your smart home, your smart office building, or local delivery drones, all of which will be powered by 5G networks. Your most important “follower” might be someone like your kitchen smart fridge, eagerly awaiting updates from you about what to stock for your next dinner party or family meal.
The rise of Asia as the home of social media innovation
And, finally, don’t discount the value of “first mover advantage” in the social media space. If you think about it, the past decade of social media has been dominated by American companies, American platforms, and American online social norms. So what happens once 5G starts to roll out globally?
Asian nations like South Korea, Japan, and China are way ahead of the curve when it comes to 5G, and that means the center of innovation for social media might no longer be Silicon Valley, but a place like Tokyo, Seoul or Beijing. Instead of Facebook pioneering 5G uses for social media, it could be companies like ByteDance (owners of TikTok). And that has huge implications for behavioral norms. Social media commerce is much more advanced in Asia than in the U.S., thanks to platforms like WeChat, and it’s likely that 5G will make it possible to have a much more seamless mobile commerce experience across social media.
If you’re interested in the future of 5G and social media, it’s exciting to consider all of the innovations that might be on the way in 2021 and beyond.