August 8, 2012

Should We Prepare a Eulogy? Social Media Competitors Threaten Facebook

Is Facebook going “out with the old?” I realize as I write this, I have my Twitter page open at all times now, when that used to be true for Facebook. I no longer feel the need to check Facebook 50 times a day anymore (it’s more like 48 times now, so I’d say that’s a pretty significant decrease). The use of my iPhone has also added Instagram and Pinterest accounts to my life, but I didn’t really notice this subtle change in my social media habits until a friend let me know that Facebook’s stock has dropped significantly and also that “more of [her] friends are deleting their accounts.” This phenomenon is due to any number of reasons, including getting hacked, the desire to avoid unnecessary drama caused by certain interactions, and even a desire to spend less time on social media sites. Those who are interested in spending less time on social media chose to quit Facebook rather than other sites because it is the platform on which they seem to waste the most time.

I don’t know when a retweet, favorite or Instagram “like” began providing a bigger feeling of accomplishment than a Facebook “like” or comment, but I would rather post my photos to either of these sites and update my Twitter statuses than my Facebook statuses on a regular basis. The way I see it, status updates are what Twitter was made for, so when you create one, you know what you’re signing up for and what to expect from the people you follow. The lack of specificity with Facebook often allows for the overuse of its features to the point where I will see uploaded photos of sonograms. I don’t know about my fellow Facebookers, but I certainly did not expect to see things like that pop up when I log in to post a funny video to a friend’s Timeline. Even as I look at my page now, I see people linking their Pinterest and Twitter updates to Facebook rather than directly posting content.

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This demonstrates the use of Facebook as secondary method of promoting yourself, rather than the go-to outlet.

The Twitter vs. Facebook debate is an obvious point of interest in investigating the falling popularity of Facebook. Users of both outlets have weighed in on this, and the resulting consensus of this dispute is the same as the age old Ben Affleck vs. Matt Damon one—there will never be one right answer, and and the two don’t mind working together. Matt and Ben share an Oscar, and Facebook and Twitter each has an account on the other’s site.

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Other social media platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and numerous blogging sites are also growing in popularity and have singular focuses just like Twitter. The idea that you can post your status to your Twitter, your photos to your Instagram, your plans to Pinterest, and your rants to Tumblr has been embraced by many. Facebook doesn’t have just one purpose, and without the unwritten, simple guidelines of the other platforms, people don’t quite know anymore just what qualifies as “Facebook appropriate.”

As completely reliable as stating “my friend” as a source of the drop in Facebook stock is, I decided I needed to find actual evidence of these shortcomings. Sure enough, CBS posted a report on their site last Tuesday with a lot of stock market jargon that I would need my equity-to-teenager translator to understand. But one thing that I was able to take from this article is that the stock has fallen 43 percent since its initial public offering. This information, combined with an article in the Los Angeles Times indicating that Facebook shares fell 8.1 percent a few weeks ago, support the news that Facebook is on the decline.

Facebook is still the number one social network with hundreds of millions of users worldwide, but with the recent loss of nearly 2 million users, there is no doubt that it as not as strong an influence as it used to be. Users have abandoned their accounts for other platforms, or just don’t feel the need to constantly interact with their 1,500 “friends,” the majority of whom they barely speak to in real life. This has become somewhat upsetting, as Facebook has been home to so many trends over the years, including games, photo sharing, bumper stickers and—who could forget—poking. I’m obviously not saying that this is the end of Facebook. With its purchase of Instagram and the recent addition of Timeline to provide access to a complete history of activity, Facebook works to remain current with constant updates and adjustments to the site. So, no worries, Facebook won’t die off like Pokémon cards and Ferbies, but the present social networking competition is definitely a significant blow to its status at the top.

And now, on a happier note, I will leave you with an example of one particular use for Facebook that I can’t see ever going out: posting cute videos of cats on people’s walls.

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— Arielle Lewen