Is Facebook Dying?

YES  Éamonn Grennan

When I get a notification from Facebook informing me that a distant acquaintance has uploaded a new photo, the smack of desperation mixes with the dry asides I shared with my friends – that the once-pioneer of social media has started truly throwing virtual brown matter at a wall, and hoping some sticks to keep it as relevant as it was as recently as 2012. These unusual tactics have faded away recently, but the idea that the good blue ship may be taking on water and fading out of people’s consciousness’ is a valid one.

Personally, I thanked Facebook more than anything for starting the notion of online presence that came with the technology boom of recent times, but now the fallen giant finds all the new kids blowing out the candles and eating all the cake at its own party with every year that passes.

It could be that the core features of Facebook are already established and hard to revolutionize besides the core of albums, profile pictures, travel statuses and tagging your friends in memes (the latter being 90% of my activity on the platform), but the various other sites and apps that emerged in the wake of the boom have infinitely more focus and allow their users to utilise them for their specified purposes on a level far above what Zuckerberg’s brainchild does now.

You see Snapchat utterly dominate the daily interactivity of casual conversations between friends, keeping in touch with a large base of people without individualized messages, and effectively documenting their nights out in a fun, faux-documentary way. Whatsapp and to a smaller extent Viber basically have a monopoly on group chats, and Twitter still finds its niche, whether keeping you up to date on news and political spats or merely the various 140-280 character ramblings that it’s socially acceptable for your friends to tweet.

Credit: Snapchat

In fact, in terms of what Facebook truly embodied, Instagram arguably provides a more rounded alternative with the emphasis on quality, not quantity, and some pretty good aesthetic design too. The design or likes and comments is obviously influenced by its forerunner, but by focusing on solid photographic content, that can be anywhere on the spectrum of throwaway shots to National-Geographic standard landscapes, Instagram has cornered a vibrant market on interactivity. Its focus is its main appeal.

Admittedly, the actually financial stability of Facebook is secured if you want to boil it down to stock prices and numbers. In fact, with the purchase of Instagram and Whatsapp, Facebook could be seen as having the last laugh in dictating exactly how much influence its two main competitors have in modern markets. Yet how does Facebook realistically see itself escaping from the doldrums it finds itself in? Contrary to what some more technophobic or luddite sorts see as the fleeting nature of social media interaction, the people who use it do so with an aim towards being constructive, rather than passing the time. For all the of Snapchat’s in-the-moment contact, it’s still used to build friendships, install humour, and flirt much more than Facebook does in its current meme-sodden state. The wide-ranging features of Facebook seem to play a large part in doing itself in.

NO  by Gemma Kent

Credit: Facebook

It seems to be the hot new trend to claim that Facebook ought to be making an event for its imminent demise. Maybe it’s because in the last five years of its unquestioned position as top dog, the multinational supergiant has had to contend with the sudden arrival of heavyweights such as Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. But the fact of the matter is, Facebook has no reason to shut up shop any time soon, and here’s why.

Firstly, there’s the most basic evidence: Facebook still remains the first port of call for connecting with someone virtually, even if it does so without drawing attention to itself. When you meet someone new in college and they suggest connecting with your online self, they don’t typically say ‘Oh, let’s add each other on Instagram’, or on Snapchat or Tumblr for that matter.

In my experience at least, Facebook is the first location you seek someone out on; Snapchat, Twitter and the rest tend to follow suit only in subsequent meetings, when you decide you want to know more about a person (more being, in the case of Twitter for example, if they are really as witty as they claim). This first-point-of-contact feature establishes Facebook as something of a social necessity in our internet-fuelled world, and helps to prevent it from being ousted by other sites.

On that note, of course, one might reasonably argue “But surely Snapchat or Twitter could easily become the new ‘norm’ if people just decided to boycott Facebook?” And the answer is yes, of course. At the end of the day, public interest is what keeps Facebook afloat, and if favours turned elsewhere Facebook would indeed reach its perilous end. But Facebook is already in competition with similar websites, so why hasn’t this already begun to happen more starkly? I would argue that this lies with Facebook’s primary function on the internet. Tying in with my above point that the site acts as the first place you look to when you want to find someone online,

…Facebook’s key function could be said to be to portray a summary of yourself to the world beyond: to remind past schoolmates what degree you now pursue, to illustrate how sociable and popular you are, to offer you a platform to share and comment on what interests and angers you.

Contrast this with the likes of Snapchat and Twitter. The former typically centres on the sharing of once-off stills of various weird and wonderful things you see in your daily life; the latter is about being as witty and condescending as possible, within a limited character set. In neither platform are you encouraged to reveal yourself as ‘completely’ as you do on Facebook. This is not a criticism so much as it is stating the obvious: your ears can’t smell and your eyes don’t hear, but that doesn’t make either organ redundant.

Credit: Pinfo

It’s also worth noting how Facebook is, in and of itself, something of a rough amalgamation of many of its sister sites, and this also continues to make the site relevant. Anyone who dedicates a few minutes (hours!) a day to scrolling through their newsfeed will recognise that Facebook frequently draws on content from other sites like Youtube and Twitter, by screenshotting and re-sharing various interactions and commentaries from these sites. This bridging of the gap between sites means that the name ‘newsfeed’ is particularly apt: by logging on to Facebook, you spare yourself having to sign in to, or even signing up to, other websites, while still sampling the crème de la crème offered by these other platforms. Of course, this feature depends on the ability of Facebook’s competitors to continue to upload interesting content, and in this way we see yet again the site’s vital role in the internet eco-system that is social media. Because without Facebook, it is feasible that much of what we consume online, and many of the memes and cute doggos that brighten up our days, would not so easily reach us.  

So hold back on your prophesising of doom: the blue-backgrounded ‘f’ is going nowhere any time soon.