Facebook. The only place you can go to discover that the guy you met three summers ago finally got a decent haircut, or that the girl you knew from primary school has just had a lovely holiday and also wants you to play Candy Crush with her for the tenth time that week. But joking aside, Facebook remains firmly as the top site for sharing and engaging with thoughts, memories and aspirations across the digital world. Has the app therefore become necessary to our lives? Perhaps. Unfortunately if someone doesn’t pop up on your Newsfeed or in a chat, they can quickly drift out of sight and out of mind. Whether it’s a few drinks down at the pub or a full-blown party, Facebook Messenger and its Events function have both become necessary for organising our social calendars. No matter where you go, Facebook is a hard platform to avoid.
As with any business that sits firmly in the spotlight, Facebook has had its fair share of issues in the past, despite it being a key part of so many of our lives. Back in 2011, the site revealed that there were 600,000 hacking attempts on user accounts every single day – a figure which can only have shot up now that Facebook has a staggering 1.79 billion monthly active users. Mark Zuckerberg himself called anyone willing to release their personal details online a “dumb f*ck”, (not encouraging Mr Z), and a quick glance at some statistics make the site seem even worse. A third of all divorce filings from 2011 in the U.S. contained the word ‘Facebook’, and a rather large 88% of exes admitted to using the app to ‘creep’ on their old partners – which seems to me like a hell of a lot of stalking. Is Facebook truly responsible for breaching privacy, triggering relationship problems, and encouraging a stalker culture? If so, it’s a small miracle that so many of us still tune into our newsfeeds as soon as we roll out of bed. And yet tune in we do.
So why is Facebook so popular? The site clearly isn’t perfect, and I’d be mad to try and argue that it is. I’m not the only one whose heart sinks every time I wake up after a heavy night to a bunch of notifications that read: “James/Becky/[insert a camera-loving friend here] has tagged you in 1,000,000 photos.” Nor do I particularly enjoy the relentless stream of pointless posts. At least half of Facebook is instantly forgettable, but what the site does do is what it says on the tin: connects people. You might not always want to hear about yet another old acquaintance who’s pregnant and #blessed, engaged, or otherwise making great or terrible life choices. But at least if you did ever want to check in on them, you can: friends don’t have to vanish from your life as soon as they’re out of your five-mile radius.
“It’s a small miracle that so many of us still tune into our newsfeeds as soon as we roll out of bed. And yet tune in we do.”
For businesses, Facebook also acts as a potential goldmine. The site’s specific algorithm dictates the type of adverts that show up on your newsfeed, which although might feel to some like a breach of privacy, allows companies to create customised ads that target specific audience demographics to increase conversion rates and quickly reap the benefits. It’s no coincidence when the shoes you considered buying last month start popping up all over the place. Even after you’ve logged out, Facebook gets busy tracking the sites you visit and where you’re spending the most time online. It knows what you love and what you don’t, and uses this information accordingly to tailor the content that you get to see from friends and pages alike.
Some might try to argue that by keeping you glued to your laptop or phone, Facebook in turn makes you anti-social. Whilst I would agree that most of us are unlikely to actually ring or meet up with more than 5% of our friend lists, but how many of us really have the time and energy to go and physically interact with their friends after work every day of the week anyway? Facebook is quite clearly the go-to site for sharing information: you’re always going to reach a wider audience writing a quick post than if you voiced your opinions to your bedroom wall, and ultimately it gives you the potential to affect the lives of more people. Which platform did most of you reading this right now come from? I’d give you three guesses, but you’ll only need one. It starts with an F and ends in a K. Cheeky.
“Facebook knows what you love and what you don’t, and uses this information accordingly to tailor the content that you get to see from friends and pages alike.”
Does anybody truly NEED Facebook? Of course not. Until a few years ago, we were all ticking along nicely without it. But so long as you don’t spend your entire life trawling through people’s profiles instead of leaving the house, then I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using the app to stay connected with people that you might not have otherwise. We all know the supposed dangers that Facebook poses to our lives, but most users are sensible enough to realise that the identity that they project onto their profile is not a true one. ‘Like’ it or loathe it, Facebook isn’t going anywhere, so we might as well embrace it.