11 social media predictions for 2016

Social media came a long way in 2015. As I'm a bonafide massive expert on all things digital, I thought I'd share with you my predictions for what's going to be big in 2016. If you don't agree with me then you're probably wrong. Soz.

Blurry concert photos will become the norm

Townsquare Media
Townsquare Media

For far too long we've lived in an age where people make a genuine effort to take nice, clear photos at gigs they attend. Those days are almost over and we can look forward to a 2016 full of wonky, blurry shots taken from behind a pillar somewhere near the back of the venue. NME and other music publications will have no choice but to adapt to this trend to ensure that nobody has a bloody clue what they're looking at anymore. There will be an app, available on Android and iOS, that will purposely, beautifully ruin every single photo you take at a concert, just in case you take one that looks a bit in-focus.

Auto-DMs will be big

What we're talking about here are those direct messages that automatically end up in your inbox after you follow someone on Twitter. Only a select few trailblazers have been utilising this feature so far, and through third-party services at that, but 2016 will see the introduction of compulsory impersonal auto-DMs not just on Twitter, but any social network that doesn't want to get left behind. DMs handwritten by real people will be phased out by summer to clear up space for people to invite their Internet friends to follow them on Instagram.


Travel bloggers will revolutionise brunch

Brunch is the next big thing in the travel blogger universe. Actual travel like going places and seeing things and stuff will take a back seat as WordPress warriors will focus their efforts on finding new ways of broadcasting their free brunches to their ever-growing audiences. Live streaming, virtual reality and interactive content will all play a part in the brunch revolution of 2016. You'll get to live every sponsored moment as if you were there.

Inspirational quotes will bring about world peace

Reused and repurposed inspirational quotes did a lot of good in 2015, but just you wait for next year. The misattributed and stolen wise words of some of the world's best thinkers will be copied and pasted en masse directly into conflict zones to stop people being mean to each other.

Facebook will become all about jogs

You may have noticed the recent trend of people sharing status updates about their jogs on Facebook and other social networks. Jogging posts are in for a boom in 2016. You'll be able to not only post about actual jogs you've done, but jogs you're planning to do, thinking about doing and possibly not going to do at all. I predict that some social networks will reject all other content in favour of jogging posts. We really want to know about your jogs.

Klout scores will be printed on passports

Got a high Klout score but worried that not everybody knows about it? The old method of just posting about it over and over again has been OK up to now, but it wasn't really in your face enough. Next year, Klout scores will be printed on all new passports and you'll be required to disclose them in job interviews and at Tesco self-service checkout counters.


The rise of the anti-social network

Tired of browsing Facebook only to see how much more amazing everybody's lives are compared to yours? Well, that will soon be a thing of the past as a number of new social networks will be launched that will actively prohibit all forms of interaction and "friending". Instead, you'll get a white screen with your name and photo on it and a list of achievements including gym certificates from primary school.

Instagram will focus wholly on bots and butts

The era of the "people users" will come to an end in 2016. Instagram will eventually remove the accounts of all actual humans in favour of bots and fake accounts that post pictures of women's butts. Real people will still be allowed to leave comments asking for Kik handles.

Food pictures will actually be edible

You probably already know that all your contacts were really interested in everything you ate in 2015. Whether you were at a restaurant or having something at home, there was a great deal of interest in your food updates. This will be taken to the next level in 2016 as now your friends and family will be able to actually eat your social media posts thanks to a new technology being developed by Google.

You will never be able to check-out

Been to the pub? Cinema? A concert? A restaurant? An airport? A nightclub? A cafe? A hotel? Well you can bet your ass we were all really happy to see your checkins in 2015. What we can look forward to in 2016 is new tech on our phones that will automatically and mandatorily check you in no matter where you go, even if you're just on the street or in the toilet or sat on a bench, meaning that the only way you can be "checked out" is if you're dead.

Everyone will be a digital nomad

This almost happened in 2015. Millions of people gave up their jobs to travel the world and make a living teaching other people how to quit their jobs and travel the world. Next year, pretty much every blog post will be about how to write blog posts teaching people how to make money writing blog posts.

Can't fucking wait.

What London's Million Mask March was really like

Million Mask March London

The Million Mask March took place on November 5 with groups gathering around the world in a hat tip to Anonymous and an F you to the authorities. I’d never been to one of these Anonymous gatherings so I went into the city to see what it was all about. There were ominous warnings of violence in the day or so leading up to the march.

This year we have strong reason to believe that peaceful protest is the last thing on the minds of many of the people who will come along.

It seemed like shit might have been about to get real, if the press and police were to be believed. On the night itself, the headlines came thick and fast: Clashes! Violence! Arrests! Battle! Chaos! It sounded like London had descended into a warzone. But what I saw over the course of maybe three or so hours was more like one of those awkward freshers week parties where everyone goes out on the town together and gets blind drunk before shenanigans ensue.

First things first, there were a handful of unnecessary incidents. Some muppets set fire to a cop car. Others threw bollards and fireworks at police and their horses. A woman was then punched for protecting those said horses. That all happened and it was deplorable. It dominated the coverage by the mainstream media while the journos out on the night with their hard hats got the meaty photos they could use to frame the whole event.

Million Mask March London

But many reporters appeared to miss that for the most part, the Million Mask March was just 3,000 people wandering aimlessly, occasionally shouting. Essentially, this was the whole point of the march: that there was, in fact, no point. It was disorganised and peculiar, so much so that on the night we often found ourselves just kind of standing around.

No path to follow

There was no clear route that the group had in mind, so everyone just walked, following whichever person at the time had decided to take on the task of navigating. Every now and then, the police would swoop in en masse to block off a road off and make sure we didn’t go up it. This led to a bit of shouting and name-calling. “Jobsworth” was a popular insult.

There were a lot of police and from what I saw they looked to be largely in control. They were generally pretty chilled about the whole thing. I didn’t see them starting any trouble or acting aggressively. It was much like previous demos I’ve been to in the UK where the protestors are the ones trying to provoke the cops. But even then, most quickly realised that these attempts were futile, so the group would start walking again.

As the night drew on, there were concerns that we were all going to be kettled as we were herded through the city, but I didn’t find myself or the people around me trapped at any time. At one point we happened upon the Mockingjay premiere, which led to a little confusion. There was an elaborate fireworks show outside the Odeon that caught the wandering attention of more than a few protestors, who stopped to take the atmosphere in. This frustrated a few of the marchers, who tried to rally everyone together again.

Pick n mix protestors

Million Mask March LondonThe protestors themselves were a mixed bunch. A lot of them were wearing the masks, but many weren’t, or else they had them on backwards so you could still see their faces. I was maskless and nobody gave me any grief. Some people put a lot of effort into their costumes, modelling themselves on V. One guy took it a step further and came as Gandalf.

There were lots of students, some skinheads, a number of punks and the occasional wrongun, can of lager in hand, who you could tell was itching for something to happen. A few times I heard someone say we should try and start some fights. Indeed, some of the more hardcore marchers were getting annoyed at how monotonous the proceedings were becoming. “Let’s do something,” I heard a few shout.

Million Mask March LondonThis “something” manifested in the form of people throwing bollards, jumping up and down on lorry trailers, and pushing over temporary fencing and orange barriers. Some stood in front of cars with their hand-written placards and only let them pass when they got a thumbs-up of approval. The placards were one of the highlights of the evening, each emblazoned with a message for the powers that be, but it all seemed a bit half-arsed. Even the chants struggled to really catch on. There was almost an attempt to storm a police line at a location where we clearly outnumbered the cops, but in the end nobody could be bothered.

This lack of drive might have come from the hodgepodge of reasons people had for being angry: pedophiles, Palestine, the monarchy, the rich, the government, bankers, housing prices, inequality, student fees, TTIP, surveillance. There was no shortage of causes. The overall message? The system needs overthrowing.

Between the occasional sounds of whistles and a Lord of the Rings-esque war horn, I heard conversations about how there were “too many yuppies” taking part, while others questioned the motives of their fellow marchers, suggesting they were just there to get a few good snaps for Facebook.

A couple of lads tried to disrupt traffic by blocking the roads with barriers and bollards. This pissed off most of the other protestors, who would then dutifully clear the roads to allow cars to pass once more.

That kind of summed it up for me: there were a handful of people trying to start something, but most people just weren’t interested in trouble. The bulk of us were happy to limit our anarchism to breathing in the fumes of the oft-photographed smoke flares and walking in the road rather than on the pavement. I actually heard someone shout, “Don’t walk on the pavement. There’s a perfectly good street. We’re here to cause disruption.” And so it went on.

Million Mask March London

Winding down

A few times the mass splintered into confused sub-groups and it seemed like a lot of people had gone home as it got towards 9 pm. By the time we got back to Trafalgar Square, the group I was in had really thinned out, so I decided to leave as well.

My initial feeling after the march was one of confusion, but then the more I thought about, I came to realise that this confusion and apparent lack of direction is really the essence of the Anonymous movement. There are vague notions of justice and equality holding together a loose web of activism and uprising, but there is no single issue or driving force, so anything the group sets its collective eyes on is fair game. In that sense, I think it's pretty cool, but when it takes a singular, physical form in something like a march, it can be difficult to know know what to make of it. This is perhaps why the media so struggles to define the movement.

Who needs definition these days anyway?

Facebook has ruined birthdays

pugBirthdays are supposed to be special occasions, celebrated with friends and loved ones. But Facebook has turned them into a farce. I’m pretty sure that the next phase of social media will see automated birthday messaging, so every time a contact’s birthday pops up, a pre-chosen message will automatically be posted to their page. Hopefully people will at least have actually hand-typed these messages, maybe in a bulk planning session at the start of the year, but there will no doubt be templates for the laziest bums.

We’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting close. We don’t need to remember anybody’s birthdays anymore because Facebook does it for us. We get ample warning now, so that when the big day comes around, we can click a link and drop a “Happy birthday mate, have a good one” with minimal effort. Then at the end of the day, that person with about 500 birthday messages can deliver a semi-heartfelt “Thanks for all the birthday messages #feelingloved” and we can all move on.


A lot of the birthday messages that get dropped on people’s pages are from those kind of weird Facebook half-friends everyone has. You know, the ones who you’re not quite pally enough with to ever really talk to, but you know them just too well to delete them entirely. We have too many friends now and actually most of them aren’t even friends, they’re just contacts or associates or whatever you want to call them. We don’t need to hear a “Happy birthday” from all of them.

This is why I hide my birthday on Facebook. I don’t mind if nobody remembers it. If I celebrate, I’ll just do it pretty chill with friends and/or family. No need to go crazy. If I’m feeling a bit lonely and want people to wish me a happy birthday I’ll do a cheery “Happy birthday to me” post or just casually mention that I’ve got a year older (“Woe is me!”). That always works a charm.

Skyped out

Facebook isn’t actually the worst for birthdays though – Skype is. Every year, Skype sends a reminder that it’s your birthday to all your Skype contacts. In my case that’s 809 people, some of whom I may have only spoken to once or a handful of times and then forgotten about. I’m pretty sure they don’t care when it’s my birthday. I’m also pretty sure they don’t want to send me a Skype card as a present.

How many times have I been duped into thinking someone was actually talking to me on Skype (yay!) only to discover it was just a birthday reminder (boo!)?! Suffice to say, I’ve now removed my birthday from Skype, for everyone’s sake. Every day or so it’s somebody’s birthday and this normally means I end up spending some time wondering who a person is. I'm sure it’s the same when my birth has popped up in the past.

I feel a bit like the Scrooge of birthdays, but Facebook (and Skype) have really sucked the life out of them.


HELP! The Internet has ruined my brain

fryThis is going to be one of those “when I was young” blog posts. I’ve got to that kind of age now. A lot has happened in 32 years. We may not have hoverboards yet, but what we do have is a huge, monstrous mass of data and information at our fingertips courtesy of the World Wide Web. Pretty much every song, book, movie, TV show, journal article and news story is there for us to access on our phones, tablets and computers. Think about how alien this concept would be to us back in the 90s. It would have blown our minds – and I’m pretty sure it’s actually ruined my brain here and now in 2015.

A love for life

Do you remember what it was like to buy a cassette tape or CD (or a record, even)? For me, it was a near religious experience. Going to the local HMV was incredibly exciting. CD shops were essentially massive, real-world versions of Spotify. They were a portal to a world of amazing music. I’d spend hours just browsing, making use of the listening station, carefully deciding what to buy.

I’d make my purchase and walk out of the shop a champion, the proud owner of something I could actually hold in my hands and begin a wonderful relationship with. Sitting on the bus or in the car on the way back home, I’d read through the sleeve notes and admire the artwork and any surprises I might find inside the case (there was once a Fun Lovin’ Criminals single that had a picture of loads of naked women in the sleeve notes).

Back home and the first listen was a magical experience. If I’d bought an album, there would be maybe 10 or so songs I’d never heard before. If it was a single then there would be remixes and instrumentals and perhaps even an acapella (what was the point?!). Either way, I had something that was mine and that I would be able to treasure for years to come.

Each CD and cassette would be listened to countless times. I got to know every song in my collection. I knew all of their names and in exactly what order they appeared on an album. It was an intimate experience. Those were joyous times.

Fear of a modern world

What frightens me is how different my relationship with music has become. I used to make lists of my top 50 or 100 songs of all time. I could make these lists with ease. But if you asked me to write a list of my top 50 songs over the last five years, I would have no idea where to start because my brain has been completely overloaded.

Thanks to Spotify and Soundcloud and Bandcamp and Youtube and more, I listen to so many new songs on a daily basis that I find it difficult to remember most of them. I used to take pride in my collection of tapes that became CDs that became mp3s, but now I don’t even need to download a file because I can stream everything. I deleted most of my music collection because it was a waste of space.

Becoming an idiot

The relationship I have with music today is a more fleeting one. I will listen to something once and if I like it, I’ll pop it in a playlist and forget about it until it turns up on shuffle at some point in the future. If I really like a song, I’ll listen to it on repeat for a while before relegating it to playlist territory.

Whereas before, I’d go out with my Walkman or Discman with a single album and just listen to it repeatedly for the whole day, now I listen to a seemingly unlimited number of songs and albums in a single day. It’s completely melted my brain because there’s just too much of it and as a result I have a very a short attention span. I’m becoming an idiot. Maybe we all are.

Streaming is making me stupid. Perhaps it’s because I’m a dimwit, but there must be other people out there who secretly crave a regression back to the 90s when we still actually bought shit and didn’t just pay for subscriptions to everything.


What it’s like when a socially awkward guy goes for a haircut

Barber shop

It’s time for me to get a haircut. I really can’t put it off any longer. I don’t know how long it’s been since my last one, but in that time I’ve gone from having a neat, tidy style to letting it grow out a bit to trimming it myself with blunt scissors to getting my wife to have a go to now looking something like the scruffy 21-year-old I was a decade ago.

The problem I have is that I need to go to a new hairdresser. It’s a walk into the unknown. When I lived in Thailand, I used to go to this salon in a mall. It was familiar and straightforward, despite the weirdness that comes with getting a trim in Thailand, like multiple rinses, head massages and confusing conversations.

The comfort I took from going to that salon made the anxiety of getting a new haircut bearable. I didn’t need to worry about any of the points of contention that appear in front of me now. It’s not like I can ask my wife to come with me for moral support. Because that’s insane. Nobody needs their hand held while they get their hair cut.

Sussing out the place

I’ve seen a few barbers on my street. For the last few days I’ve been making mental notes of the setups of each one as I walk past to help me come to a decision about which to pick. The one closest to my place is always full of young lads getting their lad haircuts. It seems more like a social club than a hairdresser’s. That one’s off the list.

There’s another that has a huskie in it and a similar ensemble of lads, albeit a little older than the first place. It’s too busy inside. Plus my dog has a thing about trying to fight huskies every time he sees one. So that’s off the list, too.

A third hairdresser’s, a “barber shop”, as I should call it, looks relatively welcoming compared to the others. There’s hardly anybody ever in there, but the people I’ve seen having their Barnets cut come out of the shop looking like they mean business. The barber himself, a young British Asian chap, appears to what he’s doing and he has all the equipment and stuff that he might need. This, this will be my barber.

The day arrives

barber2I’m not going to call – I don’t phone anyone other than my wife and mum. I’ll just walk in and see if he can either cut my hair there and then, or else make an appointment for later. But I have to do this after it’s had time to sink in and I can really build myself up to it. I’ll also need to chat about my plans with my wife to get some reassurance that this is actually a good idea.

I’ll go in on Friday afternoon, I tell her. It’s the end of the week and near the end of the day, so it’s something I can work towards. I have a photo I took after my last haircut so I can show him that picture without having to really explain myself.

I head out to the street and walk up the road towards the barber. I wonder if the people I pass notice that I’m in need of a haircut. The closer I get to the shop, the more my mind races and I become increasingly aware of everyone on the street. They all have tidy hair.

Through the door

I’m at the door now. It’s a big moment as I turn the handle and walk in. The barber will clearly be able to see that I’ve left it so long to get this done.

He’s already cutting someone else’s hair, a chap maybe 20 years older than me who actually doesn’t have much on top to start with, but what he does have looks all right in an ashy kind of way. I take a seat and the barber says he can do me next.

As I’m sat on the large, black, leather couch, I want to see the barber perform. I think he looks professional. I reckon I can trust this man to give me something that won’t necessitate two weeks of wearing a hat.

I have some time to myself to think now. Why do I hate getting my hair cut? What is it about the experience that feels to me like nails screeching down a chalkboard? It’s the feeling of being at the centre of attention in a situation in which I’m somehow vulnerable. It’s the process of being in a spotlight and unable to escape.

I have to bring my trail of thought to an end because it’s my turn to don the weird backwards cape and sit in the hotseat. The barber politely asks me what I want. I mumble something about desiring it to look how it does now, only shorter. This sounds too vague. I need to get my phone out and show him the photo. The pic wasn’t really taken at the optimal angle so it’s about as much use as my description. He says he thinks he knows what I mean, so I will have to trust him.

And so it begins

barb3I sometimes imagine that I’m getting my hair done and halfway through I realize it’s a disaster so I run out of the shop with half a haircut and try to get away. I won’t be doing that here. Whatever happens, I’ll figure things through.

The cut begins. He doesn’t wash it or anything, but just sprays some water on. I washed my hair this morning but I wonder if it's unusually greasy or if I have bits of toast in it. Do the backs of my ears look dirty? I didn’t shave. Maybe I should have shaved for this.

We’re keeping conversation to a minimum. I’ve told him I live just up the road and that’s about as far as we’ve got. I’m content to just sit here in silence, but I have to find ways to make my face look like I’m happy with the job he is doing.

I can imagine nothing worse than cutting someone’s hair and knowing by their facial expression that they are unhappy with how everything is going. How do I look content without appearing unusually happy?

I decide to occasionally do that weird half smile people do when they fold their lips in on each other and push them tightly together. I’m trying not to frown as I do it. Every now and then I give an approving nod. He seems OK with this.

I think I like where this is going. My hair is starting to look how I imagined it would in my head. This is an enormous relief. We’re almost done. Do I want some wax in my hair? No, no, don’t worry about that. I’ll do it when I get home and can properly assess the situation. I think I like it, but I don’t want to stare at myself in the mirror for too long here.

He shows me what the back of my heads looks like with one of those small round mirrors. Yep, yep, that’s the back of my head. That’s exactly how it looks. Great, thank you. The backward cape is removed and he brushes some stray hairs from my shoulders. I have to pay now. It’s £9 but I should give him a tenner because he seems like a nice chap. Maybe I should tip more. I don’t know. But before I can figure out this latest conundrum I’m out of the shop and walking back home.

The aftermath

Anyone who sees me now will know that I have just minutes ago had a haircut. What do they think of it? I walk a little faster, catching my reflection in shop windows as I go. I think I look all right. I’ll need to take a picture, though, and send it to my wife, and also take some better shots for next time I get a cut so I can have this replicated.

Back home now and I spend some time in front of the mirror. This has all been worth it. It’s over now. I don’t need to go through this for at least another three months. I could possibly stretch it even longer if I get into one of my long-hair moods.

For now, all is well in the world.