Facebook might just be the original social network. Sure, there was Friendster and MySpace before it, but Facebook’s rapid growth and seemingly unstoppable, addictive grip on basically everyone has solidified it as the go-to social sharing site. Or has it?
In an article posted last week, Vanity Fair tech writer Nick Bilton argued that we may be witnessing the last days of the social networking behemoth. Facebook, Bilton writes, could be on its way out. While purely speculative, Bilton does present a thought-provoking case.
Bilton’s scary prediction about the future of Facebook is based mostly on two things: the platform’s high-profile shortcomings (such as the proliferation of “fake news” leading up to the 2016 election) and Bilton’s own anecdotal evidence that suggests that people are opting out of the site altogether. Bilton says he has noticed a massive uptick in friends and family deleting the Facebook app from smartphones, logging out of the site, and more. And a big part of it has to do with the way that the once social sharing site has dealt with (surprise!) “fake news” over the last 18 months.
Back in November, the company said they believed that over half of eligible voters in the US were exposed to fake news stories pertaining to the 2016 election, written entirely by a Russian government-backed “troll farm.” And although the number of false news stories may be small in the proportion to the overall amount of content shared on the site, the admission was enough to make many users who were already questioning Facebook’s privacy policies sign off completely.
Chamath Palihapitiya, an early executive at Facebook, was quoted in the New York Times as saying the social network’s “short term, dopamine-driven feedback loops,” are “destroying society,” and Sean Parker, Facebook’s first president, worried about what impact the network might be having on kids. Now, with the company’s pivot to showing users mostly friend-generated content, Bilton suggests that the companies whose marketing dollars built the Facebook empire may be feeling shut out thanks to a diminished access to user data.
As Bilton concludes, “I think that Zuckerberg, and the people who work at Facebook, also realize that the things they have broken are things that are going to be very difficult to put back together.”
A bold prediction, indeed.
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