Do you have a Facebook account? And if so, do you find yourself with that daily urge to look at your notifications? If you answered yes, you’re one of 1.4 billion people across the globe that checks their account on the regs; the number of daily users is increasing at a rate of 23% year over year (January 2018). When you look at monthly users, the number goes up to 2.13bn – a 14% yearly increase. With stats like these, it’s no surprise that Facebook remains leaps ahead of its closest rival: Instagram. The photo sharing app is currently sat at 800 million monthly active users.
Content That Sparks Conversations
Facebook has been up and running for over 14 years, and naturally, over that time, we’ve seen a number of modifications to the platform; Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and CEO, has publically set himself challenges every year since 2009 to better the site for users. Zuckerberg announced his latest challenge in January (2018) which sees the social network attempt to encourage more personal interactions amongst users.
If you use Facebook regularly, it’s likely you will have seen a number of viral videos or images pop up on your news feed. Often, these posts contain humorous content – we’ve all seen the ‘Rings’ TV store prank – but we have also been witness to a number of disturbing posts such as those with animal abuse or violent human activity. Zuckerberg knows these types of posts can be “harmful to people’s psyches,” and therefore his decision to reduce virals (as well as content from businesses and un-trustworthy news sources), and promote more posts from family and friends was made. Zuckerberg wants Facebook to be full of “high quality content” that is “good for people’s well-being and for society overall.” By encouraging meaningful interactions, the CEO feels the platform can “improve people’s lives.”
“Helping people connect is more important than maximising the time they spend on Facebook,” – Mark Zuckerberg
With a quarter of the world’s population on Facebook and businesses already heavily invested in the current format, significant changes are likely to face some criticism. Over the years, the site has gone from being a place where people post pictures, videos and status updates of food, their children and the neighbour’s cat to becoming in many respects like a fully-fledged media outlet. In fact, for many digital news organisations, Facebook has become a vital traffic source.
Unfortunately, Facebook – as well as other social media channels – has come under fire for allowing fake news to surface (think US 2016 presidential election). This looks to be one of the reasons why Zuckerberg wants to cut down on news content (and prioritise more trustworthy local news sources instead). However, this could result in a backlash; by reducing the amount of news users see, some may feel their access to information is being restricted. Nevertheless, the CEO feels the changes are worth the risk of potentially losing ‘customers’: “I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable.” In his opinion, the news elements were making the site “less fun and useful” and by reducing them, he’s looking out for the long-term health of the company.
A Better Facebook?
In the last three months of 2017, measures such as showing less virals reduced the amount of time people spent on Facebook by roughly 5%; this equates to around 50m hours a day, the BBC reports. However, despite the drop, Facebook reported better than expected results; the monthly users in those three months grew 14% to its current total at 2.13bn.
Zuckerberg states that it will take time to “heal the news feed” and is asking Facebook fans to have patience. It’s clear he feels he and his team have a responsibility to ensure the platform is good for people’s wellbeing, and if that means losing users or less time being spent on the site, then so be it.
How are you adapting to the changes Facebook are making? We would love to hear your thoughts – please write them in the comments below.
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