By: DYLAN LEMERT
A week ago I was talking with a coworker of mine about the future of social media. She was specifically curious about my thoughts on the future of Facebook.
See, she had been one of the first to grab a piece of Facebook’s stock when the company went public more than a year ago. The plan was to set aside the stock’s accumulating funds for her then-infant granddaughter, who would one day grow up to inherit a sizable chunk of cash when Facebook inevitably ruled the online market.
Sounding slightly apprehensive, she finally asked, “Do you even think Facebook will be around much longer?”
I wasn’t quite sure how to answer.
I proceeded to tell her what I knew, how not even a decade ago Myspace was the lead dog in the social media race before succumbing to Mark Zuckerberg’s more streamlined, user-friendly interface.
So if Facebook was going to be anything like Myspace (or Xanga, for that matter) then its shelf life was probably running a bit low.
There seems to be a growing feeling among many that Facebook, once seen as a global hub for interconnectivity, is slowly becoming less popular. After all, what reason would my coworker have for even entertaining thoughts of the demise of the most lucrative social media website ever?
According to what I’ve witnessed from my news feed, (a sample consisting of 500 or so active members, if I had to guess), folks left and right are declaring their intent to leave Facebook behind.
Whether those people actually carry through on their claims or not, the point is that rarely anymore do I hear of someone joining Facebook for the very first time. Almost daily, however, do I hear of someone leaving, either publicly defecting to Twitter or Tumblr or swearing off social media altogether.
And even though Facebook claims their numbers have been steadily growing since 2004—resulting in just over one billion current members as of this moment—it’s acknowledged that nearly nine percent of these members don’t exist. They’re either fake or defunct accounts, resulting in skewed statistics.
The inevitable rise in advertisements (whether in the shape of those tailor-made ads that appear on the right margin of the screen, or the sponsored posts that crop up in your news feed and demand your valuable clicks) has surely had something to do with a few members trickling away from the website over the years.
But I believe the cause is more profound than that.
Simply put, I think for a long time many of us expected social media to be the thing that would irreversibly change the course of human history, like the invention of the wheel.
Sure, websites like Facebook have drastically changed how we communicate and do business and find entertainment. But I’m not so sure they’ve ultimately changed what we all long for, what we desire deep within us. A desire for a type of interaction technology cannot satisfy.
This interaction doesn’t come through a computer screen or a smartphone app, but through holding the hand of a loved one or meeting a friend for coffee.
So the question “Will Facebook be around much longer?” is maybe not as important a question to ask as “Should Facebook be around much longer?”
Whether or not social media exists in 10, 20 or 100 years is beside the point if we aren’t responding to real-life experiences right now. Fortunately, I think the cultural attitude at large is beginning to recognize that.
And I think that’s a pretty good place to be.