I probably spend more time thinking about facebook than actually using it. My thoughts usually examine the business and professional applications of this now ubiquitous service. It has seen phenomenal growth with over 250MM users worldwide, 70% of them outside of US.While it makes sense for certain kinds of businesses to have a presence there, the most important consideration with facebook, as with any other tool, has to be WHAT are you trying to accomplish and WHO are you trying to reach? Frankly, when we’re talking about 250 million active users of virtually every demographic group known to mankind, you need to make a pretty compelling case why you would NOT want to be on facebook. But that’s a discussion for another day.
Mostly, though, I wonder about its future. Will there still be a facebook in 3, 5 or 10 years? Will it merge with another service or fall out of favor and cease to exist altogether? If it is still around a few years from now, will its identity be the same as it is today, or will it start to show its age and therefore be deemed not as cool? And if it loses its cool factor, how will that affect its long term viability?
Will the youth continue to be its driving force? Will generation after generation continue to populate it and keep it growing? Now I can’t prove this, but I’ve heard kids tend to be a little fickle, and the next shiny technology object attracts all the attention…for awhile.
As a broader concept, there is an entire generation of people who are growing up living their lives online. It’s completely normal for them and they don’t call it “social media.” They call it “life.” Nevertheless, i suspect that in fairly short order, we may see a drop in usage of some of the more life revealing tools such as facebook for one reason: people need some time alone.
At some point in every person’s life, you need some time to be by yourself to collect your thoughts, think about who or what you want to be and just generally disconnect for awhile. When I was in college, they called it “semester abroad.” I’m only half kidding here. I think high levels of scrutiny, whether they are self-inflicted or not, retard personal growth. We are already seeing a decline in usage among the 55+ demographic, when less than 3 months ago, they were the fastest growing group. There may be different factors playing into this trend, but I have the feeling that we may see something of a fall off in usage among the 21-29 year old age group pretty soon. If anyone reading this blog is over 30, think back to those years of your life and they can probably be characterized as a period of discovery: a couple of different jobs, a few moves, a couple of girlfriends/boyfriends. In other words, a period of normal human growth and self-discovery.
Having said all that, I would come back to this one point. Let’s assume that in 2015, facebook and twitter, currently the two most talked about if not most used social media tools out there, cease to exist. Perhaps they merge or fold or turn into something else, but they’re no longer around the way we know them today. It won’t matter. And here’s why: the game has changed forever. Our expectations in terms of how we communicate, how we share knowledge, information, our global positions and our photos has changed forever. facebook and twitter (along with a raft of other tools too numerous to mention here) have enabled that shift and now the horses are out of the barn. We cannot go back to the old way.
Don’t understand the difference between writing on someone’s wall and “liking” something? Can’t figure out an @ reply versus a DM? It doesn’t matter. It’ll take you 20 minutes to learn just enough to be dangerous on either service. But, more importantly, you will understand that the nature of privacy has changed, that Google never forgets and that there is a hell of a lot of good that can come from two-way or even multi-party communication.
Could it be that the “party line” telephone of the 1930s and 40s was the crowning achievement of communications technology? Everything that’s old is new again.