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Will Facebook die? (Is Facebook already dead?)

By , on March 25, 2015 at 12:38 pm

The full lifecycles of major social media platforms have yet to be realized.

Sure, there have been plenty of virally successful platforms that were quickly adopted, used and then dropped (Hello Friendster). But all of these platforms are still rather nascent when you compare them to, like, the lifespans of other game-changing innovations (automobile, refrigerator, electricity, the list goes on and on).

Facebook started in 2004, quickly differentiating itself from rival MySpace by leveraging existing educational networks to grow its user base. MySpace was chaotic, disorganized, unguarded and allowed users to take on any identities they chose. Facebook was the opposite. Organized. Clean. Rigidly un-customizable. And, of course, you had to be yourself.

I remember when Facebook was open to high schoolers, having previously been college-only. What a day! I didn’t have an invite though. But importantly, I didn’t yet want one.

Fast-forward a decade, and Facebook has undergone dozens of iterations, fundamentally changed the meaning of certain words (wall, poke, unfriend, post, newsfeed), and altered the course of digital interaction. All while trying to make a profit (lol).

Culturally, MySpace is no more. And we need to recognize what a big deal that is. That a social behemoth with millions of users could lose that relevance is a testament to our constant collective evolution. In short, we grew up, we got bored, and the new generation of users very naturally wanted to differentiate themselves from the old.

This is human nature and—ironically—it’s the one thing that isn’t going to change.

We will evolve from Facebook, and the kids younger than me won’t even go there. In fact, they aren’t going there.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview eight teenage boys and grill them on their social media habits (long story). The result: Many of them didn’t even have a Facebook. Facebook is old-school. It no longer holds the cache of “you’re not on Facebook?!? Are you a real person?” Instagram is their Facebook. More on that in a later post.

A lot of people cling to The Book for one reason: what if they needed to contact someone in the future who they didn’t know very well? How would they do it?

This is Facebook’s core value proposition. It is your digital, extended network. You probably don’t want to contact everyone within it, but you don’t not want to contact them either. The future of needing those bridges is enough to make us maintain our accounts. For many of us, Facebook is the grid. Going off of it is scary.

But teenagers today are becoming less reliant on Facebook as their anchors to one another. And, even when I look inward at my own Facebook usage—it has completely shifted in the span of ten years, and not in a good way. I don’t use it actively anymore. I haven’t used it as a tool to communicate with someone I am close to in a long time (that’s what Snapchat is for!) I don’t write posts, I just sort of creep on it, scrolling through my endless newsfeed. My friends are the same. Facebook is feeling tired. And, it’s no surprise. How can one network suit the incredibly varied use-cases and peculiarities of everyone.

Facebook, for a lot of us right now, is a digital Rolodex. Its utility lies in potentiality, not in continued usage. Maybe that’s enough to keep it around forever—in some reduced shape or form.

But this isn’t about us, it’s about future generations. Digital is no longer transformative for them. It’s just life. They may no longer see the need for a “digital network” because they cannot conceive of a network that isn’t translated into digital. Don’t believe me? Ask any person under 25 if they can imagine what life was like without the internet.

Future teenagers won’t need “Facebook,” because having simply been born later, they’ll have already outgrown it.

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Categories: Industry News