Home > Daily life, Technology > Facebook: is it over?

Facebook: is it over?

For those who don’t believe Facebook could soon become obsolete, remember that the Third Reich was destined to last a thousand years, that communism mushroomed, grew, and died all within 70 years, that the mighty Roman Empire lasted but a few centuries. Civilizations, like trees, like rock groups, have a finite lifespan. So do social media (Friendster, MySpace).  Facebook will be around a while—800 million fans won’t opt out all at the same time–but its days are numbered. For multiple reasons and not, as popular wisdom has it when something is doomed, victim of its own success.

So why is FB doomed? Let me count the ways.

  1. Most people I know are exasperated when they spend some time on the network, rather than happy to share or receive family news, half-baked political opinions, photos of kids they don’t know, videos of pets being cute or ridiculous, ultrasounds of growing fetuses, our little lives laid out like a neighborhood yard sale for all to pick through. People report logging in less and less often, sometimes forgetting to do so for months on end. How often do we get to see something truly out of the ordinary (like the photo here of my little nephew Giorgio falling asleep in an uncommon position)?
  2. Friends that have quotation marks around the word are not friends. We don’t know most of them, we have never seen them and never will and would probably have nothing in common if we did. We are aware of that yet compete in seeking ever higher numbers.
  3. Some friends lose an “r” on the way and become fiends. You know them: The guy who fires off volleys of posts about the “beautiful bride”  he married thirty years ago, the one who posts ten articles, one after another, from Al-Jazeera or Huff Post regarding some story developing somewhere, and my favorite, the fiend who has some ten or twenty posts every day, no kidding, about various European royalty.  Yes, I know we can block them but that’s just one more hassle in days that count many.
  4. The IPO was a disaster instead of the promised glorious event to top all IPOs in the history of Wall Street. Was Zuckerberg greedy? Were Goldman Sachs and other underwriters both greedy and incompetent? The IPO raised $16 billion, not shabby but far from the $106 billion stock valuation.
  5. Facebook investors who see themselves on the losing end of the deal contend that the stock loses value every day as the numbers of users of mobile devices don’t generate as much revenue (85% of FB’s total revenue) as the previous generation which logged in mostly on computers.
  6. Security issues are prominently discussed, by users of the social network as well as by businesses disappointed by the low numbers of ecommerce.
  7. Privacy issues are a constant bone of contention. What do these people know about us, what do they disseminate, how much of our private life is no longer private but turned into numbers and statistics and shot into cyberspace for ill-wishers, marketers, Homeland Security, stalkers, to parse and use as fits their purpose?

One more thing: everything under the sun–and even the sun itself–has a lifespan. Things change, then end. That’s true of trees, of mountains, of seas, of people. It’s also true of trends, of fashions, of technology. All the devices we use today will be laughed at by our grandchildren who will probably have every chip they need grafted directly in their brain.  In the sixties, one computer at the London School of Economics filled a huge laboratory and took half an hour to complete a simple operation. Also in the sixties, right in the middle of the Beatles’ ascension to becoming the most important rock band ever, John Lennon, then a very young man, said in an interview that he expected the group as such to last eight years.

Eight years! Not very long at all, is it? By coincidence, also precisely how long Facebook has been around.

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  1. Narguesse Stevens
    June 17, 2012 at 8:00 am

    But Facebook is a wonderful way to communicate with my family, scattered all over the globe. Tightly-controlled by me, Facebook is a godsend as the family extends ever further, and I can write to otherwise-unseen great-nieces and great-nephews, to say nothing of cousins and their offspring…

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  2. June 18, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    Ok, there are pros and cons, but I see mostly the cons. It’s just another way to waste time. I guess I’m old-fashioned, but I don’t do facebook, and I don’t tweet. And guess what? My brain thanks me for that. Instead, I choose to spend that time writing poetry and reading. I communicate by email and phone; that’s enough.

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  3. spencer
    June 20, 2012 at 4:02 am

    I am not a Facebook or Twitter user but the phenomenon „social network“ is interesting. In my opinion it is like a sword with two sides. The one side appeals to that part of our brain that makes us strain to look over the shoulder of the person in front of you in the grocery line while you try to peep at the latest useless, nonsense scandal smeared all over some rag newspaper or movie magazine. You would never buy one but you still can’t help just wanting to peek. Zuckeberg recognized that and became a billionaire almost over night. The other side of the sword is that Facebook and Twitter does what the printing press did centuries ago: it allowed grass-root ideas to spread despite political repression, peer pressure, cultural traditions and all those things that either guide us or force us along certain paths. It is probably the most powerful tool the grass-roots ever hard in their hands. The Arab Spring and what is happening in China are the best examples.
    Will it die out? Good question. In Robert Pirsig’s Metaphysics of Quality phenomena like Facebook and Twitter are described exactly. He offers an explanation as to why these things start and where they usually wind up and it was written before these two systems even existed.

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  4. Narguesse Stevens
    June 20, 2012 at 8:48 am

    I wonder if Pirsig regrets he didn’t patent his ideas? I agree that Facebook and Twitter will probably die out – but only because people always want the “latest thing” and eventually it will seem old hat. But until then, may it continue to be a force for good.

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