The year is 2018. It has been 39 years since the world first began experimenting with the idea of social media, in the form of a bulletin board system that enabled users to login and interact for the first time in history. Fast forward to 1997, and internet users were given Six Degrees – the first glimpse of something resembling today’s social platforms, where users could create a profile and add contacts. It was the millennium, however, when the ‘golden era’ of social media truly came to be. Wikipedia in 2001, MySpace in 2003, and Facebook and Twitter in 2006. Tumblr, WhatsApp, SnapChat and Tinder were soon to follow, and here we are, with 3.196 billion social media users worldwide in 2018, up 13 percent year-on-year. Annual growth doesn’t seem to be slowing down, especially in terms of active mobile social users – 39% up 5% from 2017.
Today approximately seven out of ten Americans use social media to connect with one another, engage with content, share information and entertain themselves – more than 69% of the public. Facebook is clearly leading the race, seeing a growth of 527 million users over the past two years alone, closely followed by WhatsApp with 400 million new users.
But despite its growing userbase, there is a growing discontentedness among users that the platform is changing too much and becoming something else altogether – something other than a social network. An ad space, or an online marketplace, more like. Facebook, it seems, might have peaked as a social network and be evolving into a customized news platform, business platform, or place where users go for online entertainment instead. While the entire concept of Facebook is premised of the idea of building networks and sharing content and personal updates, confidential company data shows that Facebook is now seeing a decline in ‘original sharing’; or posting by users about themselves and their personal lives. It has become so much of a problem that Facebook has allegedly set up a task force to reverse this decline in original sharing, experimenting with new language to prompt personal posts, new reactions to express a greater range of responses to personal posts (e.g. tears, laughter, shock), and even Zuckerberg himself has been pushing Facebook live video as a means of encouraging people to connect with his personal message.
But it doesn’t appear to be helping: Facebook shares are plummeting, helped in turn by news of a security breach, increased pressure from Washington-based watchdogs, and the exit of the Instagram co-founders. Stock is currently down 25% from all-time highs reached in July this year.
Teenagers, the group that originally pushed the platform to fame by embracing its ability to allow them to connect with wider networks, gain friends, and even flirt with new flames, are the ones leading the mass exodus. Why? They claim Facebook is now ‘meaningless’, is flooded with adults and so they are leaving in drones for Twitter, SnapChat and Instagram at a rate of roughly 1 million users a year. And what they say is true: Mum and Dad signed up to keep a close eye on their kids but began realizing there was a whole new world out there, one full of old school friends, new friends, and interesting news – and so they decided to stay. And so, the kids are leaving, more and more each day, lured by the secretive world that is SnapChat and WhatsApp, where their actions, exchanges and behaviors aren’t quite as closely monitored by teachers, parents and authorities. Some teens interviewed on the subject have claimed “Facebook is the new MySpace” and that their generation has adopted Twitter and Instagram to escape their parents, the next generation will embrace new technologies to do the exact same. Millennials also now view social media in general as an ‘exercise in pointless digital consumption’ and are seeker newer, more reality-driven ways of being entertained or interacting.
The researchers note that social media has fundamentally changed how information disseminates and has become a valuable source of novel information that fundamentally alters bitcoin evaluations. Therefore, social media act as a channel through which information and expectations become reflected in the price of bitcoin.
Businesses are also questioning the value of the platform. A recent study on 4,800 adults in the UK found that just one in ten British consumers say that social media plays a role in their purchasing habits, and many businesses are finding that social media spending can be a huge waste, with just 24.7% of marketers saying they are able to prove Facebook’s impact quantitatively, and 39.3% unable to show its impact at all. This presents a grave problem since, according to one report, social media spending now accounts for 13.8% of brands’ total marketing budget — but a third can’t prove it has any impact whatsoever.
Are Facebook worried? Seemingly so. Should they be? Absolutely.
Nothing lasts forever, and perhaps Zuckerberg’s focus should now move swiftly to how best the platform can revolutionize, transform and become something in high demand once again to ensure its continued survival.