Writer Blake Snow recently posted an article on CNN.com’s Tech section about Facebook, its increase in deleted user accounts over the last month (a projected 7 million in North America alone) and suggested reasons why this might be the case, appropriately titled Why Some Dissatisfied Users are Shunning Facebook. In the piece Snow identified potential competitors that are creeping on Facebook’s turf, like Diaspora and Path, two services that offer a variation of the acclaimed social network’s capabilities (e.g. photo sharing and group/friend segmentation). Conclusively, Snow expresses how “thinking that Facebook is forever is like thinking that AOL was the be-all-end-all of the Internet…Eventually, everyone will use something else.”
I find it hard to imagine a future world without Facebook. Obviously, given its unparalleled success and impact on humanity (yes I will go as far as including our entire species), there is speculation as to how long it will last and what will take its place. Alternative “versions” of Facebook are popping up, leveraging various capabilities that Facebook doesn’t currently offer like specific photo-sharing options, smaller “group” options for more intimate social networking experiences and privacy settings for your privacy settings. But seriously, what can really compete with a network that has the attention of almost 700 million people? A new iPhone app? Or how about a network that not only allows you to “poke” your friends, but also enables you to “kick”, “bite”, “grab” and “punch” at your leisure?
NOTHING—and herein lies my argument for why it will take more than a few competitors to knock Facebook off its pedestal.
I don’t think you can definitively compare Facebook’s future with that of AOL’s current role. Facebook has redefined the way in which we connect and communicate with each other on a global scale. It is through Facebook that we are not only informed of breaking news, but we are also privy to our friends’ opinions of that news. The social network has integrated itself into our culture seamlessly. After all, a relationship isn’t really a relationship unless it’s “Facebook official” and remaining in touch with someone you recently met at a weekend gathering is no longer limited to phone/text as you can “Facebook” them at your convenience.
We can’t look at Facebook as simply being a medium through which we send and receive information. It actually constructs and oftentimes defines the way in which we communicate. The Facebook we use today is miles from where it was when launched seven years ago and it pales in comparison to where it will be 2, 3 or even 10 years from now. Facebook is an experience that we, as users, have opted into. When it changes or evolves in some way (i.e. new capabilities, formatting changes, etc.), we adapt and move forward, although these changes are predominately implemented to enhance user experience. It influences the way we think about ourselves, about others and the world around us.
Previous users who have since deactivated their Facebook accounts have expressed a desire for people to “go back” to how things once were, where in-person interactions were the norm. But the idea of discarding one’s use of Facebook would be comparable to that of asking someone to forsake the use of a mobile phone in the late 90s as they were first emerging. It doesn’t make sense. Facebook further connects us with those individuals we want to remain connected with, and it enables us to share information as we see fit. Our individual voices are not restricted, but amplified through Facebook and our influence (albeit positive or negative) is directly affected.
Facebook will continue to evolve and continue to play a significant role in the lives of its users and media in general. One thing is certain, Facebook is not going anywhere anytime soon, though it will need to expand its current role and, of course, go through a few face lifts.
Photo Credit: Facebook’s Facebook Page