Facebook is a content discovery network. What once was a place for personal information has morphed into a platform dominated by third-party content. I like discovering articles and videos on Facebook. I recently cooked two meals based on recipes I discovered from Buzzfeed videos posted in my news feed. My stomach was not complaining about Facebook’s content shift while I was feeding it with fajita stuffed chicken the other night. I would argue that Facebook is evolving. It started off as one thing and is becoming something else entirely. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Does personal information keep us more connected to Facebook as a platform? Maybe. I think that Facebook is already a part of our digital lives that many of us couldn’t imagine getting rid. I have literally spent years cultivating the connections I have on Facebook. I have posted photos that span from my college days to today. I have captured special moments, memories, and shared in the joy of friends’ weddings and the births of their children. I couldn’t imagine just leaving Facebook one day just for the hell of it. I would leave a fairly large lingering shadow given the sheer number of posts that I’m tagged in. More than that I would constantly feel like I was missing something. I maintain connections on Facebook that I would struggle to do in the real world. It just makes things easier. For that it serves an important purpose.
It is a connective layer that bridges many different aspects of our society. For that I don’t want to leave. I acknowledge that I waste time on Facebook, scrolling through my news feed not looking for anything in particular. It is in those moments that serendipity can happen. I come across a video of my best friend’s daughter going down a slide for the first time. Her laughter, which I hadn’t even considered minutes prior, brightens my entire day. Or, as I mentioned before, I discover a recipe that I can awe my girlfriend with. I look like a hero because I can watch a 2 minute video that consolidates the recipe into an easily digestible format. That’s why I don’t want to leave Facebook. I am equally optimistic about what Facebook will mean to me in the future. Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus Rift may go down as one of the smartest purchases in the company’s history. It’s not a question if virtual reality will impact countless industries, but when. Facebook is in a position where it can become a major solution provider in this developing field. In the same way that Facebook pioneered social networking, it could lead the way for how we experience information in a world of mixed reality.
I’m not surprised that tweens aren’t flocking to join Facebook. When it’s a place where your parents and grandparents hang out, it lacks the “coolness” factor that attracts a new generation. It doesn’t matter. They will come to Facebook eventually. As they grow older, they will see it for what it is, one of the most trafficked highways for digital information and interpersonal connection in the entire digital world. That’s not something one can avoid forever. In its brilliance, Facebook recognized that it could gain a foothold with humanity’s youth through strategic acquisitions.
Facebook doesn’t care that middle schoolers aren’t using traditional FB accounts as much as people 20 years their senior. The company recognizes that this generation is more connected to apps like Instagram and Messenger, which are two Facebook properties. Had Facebook gotten what it wanted, it would have acquired Snapchat years ago. In the same manner that Instagram is devoid of direct branding signifying its relationship as a Facebook property, so too would Snapchat have continued its life as an independent property. What will be interesting to see is if Facebook is able to jump on the next Snapchat before it grows too big or optimistic to accept a billion dollar acquisition offer. Facebook isn’t going anywhere. It’s time to double down on Facebook.