Facebook often causes a stir whenever it changes something or introduces new features, but one thing that pretty much everyone in my News Feed loves is the On This Day feature. Sure they get it wrong sometimes, and some people have created virtual histories that are pretty cringe worthy…and it’s pretty much a rip off of Time Hop…but I kinda like being reminded that I have created an online catalogue of awesome memories that will stay with me longer than the ones slowly fading with age inside my noggin. I am only 24, so I also know Facebook will only serve those memories to me for as long as it can make money off of me, and 50 years from now charging seniors for their life story could be pretty lucrative, but I digress.
Future evil plans may be in jeopardy though with recent reports showing that as Facebook is becoming a home for pretty much everything…funny videos, memes, shopping, brands…its users are actually sharing less of their personal lives on the platform, and that is pretty scary for a corporation that calls pretty much *that* its bread and butter. We only have to watch The Social Network to know that the platform would be nothing without us being able to boast about our lives to people that actually mattered. Could it be that On This Day doesn’t really serve to remind us about how great our lives were, but rather how great it was sharing those moments on Facebook? We know Facebook didn’t need this report to know things weren’t going according to plan, so analysing some of its activity over the past couple of years gives a telling insight into its Plan B.
‘People continue to share a ton on Facebook; the overall level of sharing has remained not only strong, but similar to levels in prior years’, the social network told The Information. But The Information was also shown confidential data that revealed a 15% drop in ‘original broadcasting’ year over year as of early 2016. That is, people are still sharing on Facebook, but less of the personal stuff that gets the most comments and ‘likes’, and more viral stuff like videos and trending news.
Could the platform be buckling under the weight of its own success? As more and more people, brands and damn, even animals join Facebook, the platform has certainly become a less intimate place to share what I am doing on a Friday night. After dancing around in a tight Power Ranger costume on YouTube I have become pretty comfortable being an open book online, but even I find myself thinking twice about how my 600 Facebook friends will react to a post.
Facebook thrives on public content it can monetize so it still wants us to post our lives to the News Feed. The Information reveals it has tweaked its News Feed algorithm to favour original posts, redesigned app interfaces to enable quicker status updates, gone down the road of live streaming, enhanced its photo tools and yep, introduced On This Day to regularly remind us of old memories, and reignite our interest in creating new ones on the platform too.
But Facebook has also become pretty good at catering to the decent chunk of users who don’t wish to share everything publically. In fact, I feel I am being pulled more and more into the ‘backstage’ of Facebook by these people as more and more tools become available for them to avoid the News Feed and their perfectly constructed profiles. Messenger, Groups and more recently, Moments are all features that exist to share our thoughts and experiences with only a few select people. Almost by design these ‘backstage’ areas are to share who we really are, while the ‘frontstage’ areas are to try and shape what people think we are.
Facebook finds itself stuck between its attempts to keep all of its users hooked, whether they be over-sharers or under-sharers, while it watches the slow decline of its traditional money maker: the original, engaging personal posts that originally brought people to the platform, and keeps them tuning in each day. The Information’s data does show a decline in the ah, decline of posting, though (21% year over year in mid-2015 vs 15% in 2016), so a future where Mark pulls up an On This Day post that says ‘When we were still relevant’ probably isn’t set in stone quite yet. They still have me addicted, at least!