Skip to main content

Exploring Shifts in Social Media: 2023 vs. 2024

By May 8, 2024No Comments

Social media and technology companies underwent a transformative period during 2023 and early 2024, marked by significant organizational changes and external pressures. One notable development was the substantial layoffs within these companies, particularly affecting teams dedicated to combating abusive behaviors and harmful content on their platforms. This restructuring may have inadvertently contributed to an environment where harmful content could proliferate unchecked. For example, instances of hate speech and propaganda saw a surge on X (formerly Twitter), paralleled by an uptick in Russian disinformation campaigns on other platforms. Investigative journalism also unearthed disturbing revelations about their recommendation systems, which were found to facilitate connections among networks engaged in the distribution of child sexual abuse material. Moreover, these companies faced substantial fines from regulatory bodies worldwide for their perceived failures in addressing disinformation, illegal content, and non-compliance with emerging user protection laws. Given these developments, it becomes crucial to delve into how these shifts have shaped user experiences on these platforms. 

The “Designing Tomorrow” blog introduces a longitudinal study initiated in early 2023, made possible through support from esteemed institutions like USC Marshall’s Neely Center for Ethical Leadership and Decision Making. This ongoing study aims to provide insights into the evolving landscape of user experiences across various social media platforms during a tumultuous period in the history of social technology. The report delves into the nuanced changes in platform usage and user experiences observed from March to May 2023 up until February 2024. 

Platform Usage Tools 

A comprehensive analysis of social app and platform usage among US adults reveals a discernible decline during the study period. Notably, three out of the top 16 platforms indexed by the Neely Social Media Index witnessed significant decreases in usage among US adults. For instance, YouTube experienced a notable 5.8% drop in usage, while X (Twitter) and LinkedIn also saw declines of 2.9% since March 2023. Interestingly, no platform observed an increase in its user base during this period. 

The rankings of the top eight most widely used platforms remained relatively consistent. Email and Text Messaging continued to maintain their dominance as the top two services, with platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and others sustaining their popularity. Notably, WhatsApp exhibited a noticeable climb in popularity, whereas X (Twitter), experienced declines in their rankings. 

User Experiences 

The study delved into changes in user experiences across platforms, focusing on four key dimensions: 

Negative Personal Experiences

X (Twitter) consistently topped the list with the highest rate of users reporting negative experiences. On the flip side, Pinterest and FaceTime continued to exhibit the lowest rates of users reporting negative personal experiences among all platforms. The absence of a significant decrease in these rates over time is mainly attributed to their initially low baseline levels of negative experiences. A year ago, fewer than 2.4% of users reported negative experiences, a number that has now dropped to under 1% for both platforms. 

Harmful Content Experiences

Twitter maintained its position at the top of the list, with the highest percentage of users reporting encounters with content considered harmful to society among all platforms surveyed. Twitter did show a slight improvement in the August-September 2023 period, coinciding with media scrutiny criticizing the company’s handling of issues like anti-Semitism and bigotry following reports from the Center for Countering Digital Hate and the Anti-Defamation League, which highlighted a surge in hate speech on the platform. However, in the subsequent months, the rate of users reporting encounters with such harmful content on Twitter began to rise again, slightly surpassing baseline levels. 

Conversely, Discord, Pinterest, FaceTime, and LinkedIn all had rates below 2.4% of users experiencing content perceived as harmful to society on their platforms. LinkedIn did exhibit a 50% increase in this type of experience relative to baseline, but the overall rate is so low (going from 1.6% to 2.4% over one year) that this increase is within a margin of error eight times larger than the observed difference. On the other hand, Discord showed a 27.6% decrease in such experiences, reducing from 2.9% to 2.1% over one year, with a margin of error twelve times larger than the observed change. 

One platform that demonstrated a notable change in the percentage of users reporting encounters with content deemed harmful was Facebook. A year ago, 27.3% of Facebook users reported such experiences, which declined to 17.3% over the next five months before rising again to 20.7%. This represents a year-over-year decrease of 6.6%, translating to a 24.2% decline relative to the baseline. 

Learning Something Important

YouTube and Pinterest emerged as platforms where users frequently learned useful or important information. On the other hand, TikTok and LinkedIn experienced fluctuations in user perception of informative content over time. Conversely, Snapchat and Online Gaming maintained their positions as the two services with the lowest rates of users reporting that they gained something useful or important. The usage patterns of these services did not display a consistent trend over time; rather, their rates fluctuated between slight increases and decreases within the margin of error. 

Meaningful Connections

Facetime and Text Messaging were highlighted for facilitating meaningful connections, with a majority of users reporting positive experiences. Noteworthy improvements in this area were also observed with platforms like Discord and WhatsApp over time. On the other end of the spectrum, Pinterest retains its position as the platform with the lowest rate of users experiencing a meaningful connection with others on the platform.  


The survey data underscores broader trends of declining social media usage among US adults, particularly evident in platforms like X (Twitter), Facebook, and Snapchat. Despite this decline, the study suggests an overall improvement in user experiences, likely influenced by various factors including advertiser and regulatory pressures. Moving forward, future reports will delve deeper into the evolving nature of user experiences, exploring demographic variations and the impact of negative experiences on platform usage. Your feedback and inquiries are invaluable as we continue to analyze these critical trends in social technology and their implications for the digital landscape. 


Free Webinar | This webinar will take place on June 27th, 4:00 pm GMT

Register Now