Last week was an outlier for Facebook. For the first time in a long time, Facebook failed to meet earnings expectations on revenue and daily active users. There are a lot of reasons for this—one of them being the fact that the platform’s room for growth is rather limited since it now sits at more than 2 billion users. There are, after all, only so many people in the world. That’s not the whole story, though. Trust has faltered, not just for Facebook but for tech in general.
Tech is in the midst of a trust crisis. Today, only 24% of U.S. Internet users believe Facebook is committed to protecting their privacy.But Facebook is hardly alone, everyone from Google to Twitter is working to turn the tide when it comes to user trust and general good will. The pressure is on. 73% of US Marketersbelieve social platforms need to take the lead on on stopping the spread of fake news and misinformation.
Are We Better Off?
2018 marked the first time since the advent of the social web that the masses asked a simple question: are we better off with these social tools than we were without them? There are merits on both sides.
Sure, we’re more connected to friends, family, diverse viewpoints and cultures other than our own. The world has gotten smaller in a lot of good ways.
On the other hand, we’re also a click away from the worst ideas society has to offer, and those ideas are no longer restricted to their corners of culture; they have the opportunity to spread. And, all too often, they do.
Utility Will Not Always Be Enough
Social platforms have traditionally adopted a “What else are you going to do?” mentality. This is true with how Facebook has treated news publishers, how Snapchat *used* to treat influencers and how all social networks have treated their users. These platforms have become part of the fabric of society.
Choosing to not use social platforms is a false choice for many people. It’s how they organize events, keep up with their contacts and allow others to keep up with them.
You can see this playing out. Usage is up almost across the board. While attitudes toward social platforms are generally low and growing lower by the day, people haven’t changed their behaviors... yet.
Facebook’s earnings report may be a harbinger of things to come. The impenetrable armor of users having no other options has shown its first point of weakness.
Users will find it difficult to abandon social platforms. But it’s becoming more evident that difficult does not mean impossible.