My girlfriend and I talk about this often. Her opinion is that quality work will always float to the top, irrespective of the noise level below. Collectors, museums, curators, etc will determine what is worth collecting, and the creators of that work will become the next Dorothea Lange, Cartier-Bresson, Alec Soth, or Elliot Erwitt. Their work will likely not be similar, but they will be the next superstars, added to the 'hall of fame' of past superstars.
I hope that she is right, and that there will continue to be a critically high level of the 'creme de la creme' of photography in decades to come. It may not be what you and I like, but it will be what somebody likes. One thing I think is for certain, the Flickr and Instagram backslapping I don't think really leads to anything. People are aggressive in following or being followed by others, and I suppose perhaps some of it might become recognized and rise above the noise, much like popular music coming from mass media popularity shows like American Idol (or similar vehicles of moneymaking). I don't know if it will last and be remembered, though. Who knows?
Thomas, I would say your girlfriend is dead right. Today I had a revelation moment, when walking through town, I stopped in front of a photographic shop window to view the numerous prints on show. Full rich colour, HDR images, perfect focus, infinite depth of field, super saturated images with layer masked skys to match. When I was young people would discuss if photography was art. Digital photography is now putting film photography in its rightful place as a pure art of physical capture and print. Have no doubts, we are the real artists of the original genre and future generations will view our work and say “how did they do that”.