No matter what they tell you, the fact is this: Facebook is not going to suddenly disappear tomorrow. However, after long facing accusations of being involved in political interference by many of those on the political right wing; it is all of sudden facing a similar set of allegations from those on the left. Some laugh off such accusations and say that it is just a repeat of action taking by what was once considered a revolutionary Obama electoral campaign. Some will mention troll bots. Either way, there's people on both sides that no longer like Facebook, which may have once been the darling of the primarily liberal tech world.
The sight of Facebook being publicly tag-teamed by a set of sides that once appeared completely unable to ever find any common ground is one that will wake up even the most apathetic of neutral viewers to this ongoing controversy. They are going to wonder if their future should have organisations such as Facebook involved in it. Whether, it was actually Facebook or disreputable third parties that were in the wrong, or if any real wrongdoing even took place is up for debate. However, Facebook is no longer the shining example of a good social media website and one may wonder what is going to lie in store for it.
Source: FlickR - Andrew C
The first thing that we need to consider is the privacy issues. Facebook was never really an anonymous option; in fact, it was essentially built upon the premise of giving users the opportunity to connect themselves with the world. In the beginning, for the earliest users of the website, that world was limited to that of your classmates or those at other universities. Those not lucky enough to possess academic email addresses were forced to wait a little bit longer to connect and make that social media world a little larger. Much to my personal annoyance as Facebook was all of a sudden absolutely littered with spelling mistakes and low class morons. However, when it got to the point where bosses, spouses or parents could monitor one's political views or their social life, the user experience changed in a big way.
Most users did not choose to quit, but they began to restrict their interaction with the site. It was that was that very interaction that gave the site value to begin with. Weaker social media rivals had died before Facebook even really came on to the scene. Why? Nobody was even using them. Even today, there are several technologically superior and more user friendly options, but people will still use Facebook because it still possesses that user base. That user base needs to create the content and value, but in light of recent revelations, some may now be treading very carefully. Facebook survives, but it is no longer the thriving party that it once was. This leads onto the second issue of concern.
Some users possess no such fear, yet Facebook will restrict their interactions for them via the medium of censorship. Facebook and other forms of social media appeared to represent a real game-changer in terms of how humans interact with each other. Adults previously tended to socialise at pubs and naturally crude and sometimes rude banter would be exchanged; these were the original, offline social media networks, where friends and strangers alike from a widespread local area could interact with each other freely. The presence of Facebook applying its censorship regime turned that virtual pub replacement into something like a classroom controlled by a rather straight-laced disciplinarian teacher. Free thinking, free speaking adults have no desire to return to a classroom; this may have subconsciously destroyed the appeal of the service.
It was not just the gatekeepers that are known as the Facebook admin that were watching. Many people realised that social media enabled people to present themselves in a more positive light that does not strictly reflect the harsh realities of the real world. Rather than sharing cringe-worthy, badly taken holiday photos with a select few close friends and family, people were starting to wish to share more professionally taken photos with the whole world. This has influenced the holiday planning choices made by younger people that now place more value upon the photos of spectacular and exotic landscapes than the actual holiday experience itself.
Others were fearful of their social media profile being used as a starting point for background checks made by employers. Some removed all information, some posted information that was suspiciously squeaky clean. The best way to keep things squeaky clean was to do very little on there. Facebook once represented an opportunity for people to express themselves online in an authentic and real manner. But fake expressions were easily detectable and nowhere near as appealing. Self censorship may caused yet greater harm than the officially enforced censorship policies.
Source: FlickR - Sean MacEntee
The third issue is that after individual human interactivity started to decline, something had to fill the void. Some may believe that this is where Facebook really started to lose its way. Ads began to increase as Facebook had probably expanded to a point where new revenue streams were going to be required. Needless to say, the smartest of companies had already found ways to utilise Facebook and other forms of social media as online marketing tools long before the organisations themselves had even created tools specifically intended for such purposes, but the reality is that this went against what many people felt that social media was supposed to be about.
Worse than this, the pages started popping up. There's nothing wrong about people enjoying and sharing memes and (typically clickbait) news content, but it has gotten to a point where this can represent a greater bulk of the content than people's real lives. Fearful of who may be lurking on Facebook, one is no longer so keener to put the whole family photo album online, no matter what kind of privacy controls Facebook may offer. Despite the best efforts of the censorship regime, banter still existed, but the problem is that most banter is no longer original or unique but shared from other Facebook pages. So what about the future?
Facebook is also no longer a new and trendy option for web users. The first batch of users may even find that their children have now created their own accounts; the online social world is no longer one which solely belongs to them. When an online world no longer exclusively belongs to the original users, they may no longer feel able to identify with it; many an online forum or message board has died a slow and painful death as the priorities of the original user change over time. Facebook will not be exempt.
Let me give you an example or two. Sharing motherhood pictures may seem anywhere near as glamorous as sharing party pics as a 20 year old university student, although many users would probably argue otherwise and annoy the hell out of other users with pictures of their messy, misbehaving brats. Inappropriate jokes shared as a university student will be looked back upon with regret by straight laced, professionals with careers, although I personally tend to give very few fucks.
Today, many an original user now has a brat of their own; a larger brat that is reaching their teenage years. No self-respecting teenager will ever feel that they belong to same world as their parents. Alternative options such as Snapchat will prove to be more appealing to them; Facebook could find itself becoming the BBC Radio 4 of the social media world; a high quality service that is valued and loved by millions yet, yet it would not appeal to younger or working class users in the slightest.
One could guess that Facebook is no longer the star of the online world, but will forever remain a prized cash cow. In the tech world, the pace of change could mean that such a demotion can only represent impending doom. Facebook killed MySpace, but it could still become the sequel.