"The technology is there and, at last, the right psychology is in place that will make these services explode. And I, for one, welcome our new avatar overlords." A formidable conclusion in a Mashable editorial on the subject.
But I, for one, sees some major flaws in this most vicarious of conclusions. The likes of Habbo Hotel in the late 90s became a success because we weren't aware of what social networking could be defined as. In that vain, we tried to recreate virtual worlds, go to virtual parties, take part in virtual diving competitions and spend our weekly phone credit on credits for virtual sofas (cool Habbo references bro). However, we are no longer 12, so even if there was a virtual world renaissance we wouldn't be part of it, and neither do the new generations alike. The psychology isn't what they claim it to be. True, the populous wants to be social, so social media now has a definition: it's an extension of our communication and active participation, not a digital recreation of your digital life.
They are correct in one respect, we have been heading in a ubiquitous direction through Geocities, Friendster and Myspace, then to Facebook and Twitter; but the next steps are not social environments. This ideology is reserved for games: something with a causality, a story and a conclusion. It doesn't belong and won't happen in the future of the chain of progression in social networking.
Simply put, it's too much of a pointless entity and requires too much attention and contribution to exist. Look at Facebook gifts and the Playstation Home, then say that social environments will return to conquer.