The slow-motion privacy train wreck that is Facebook has many users, perhaps you, thinking about leaving or at least changing the way you use the social network. Fortunately for everyone but Mark Zuckerberg, it’s not nearly has hard to leave as it once was. The main thing to remember is that social media is for you to use, and not vice versa.
Social media has now become such an ordinary part of modern life that, rather than have it define our interactions, we can choose how we engage with it. That’s great! It means that everyone is free to design their own experience, taking from it what they need instead of participating to an extent dictated by social norms or the progress of technology.
Here’s why now is a better time than ever to take control of your social media experience. I’m going to focus on Facebook, but much of this is applicable to Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other networks as well.
The Facebooks of 2005, 2010, and 2015 were very different things and existed in very different environments. Among other things over that eventful ten-year period, mobile and fixed broadband exploded in capabilities and popularity; the modern world of web-native platforms matured and became secure and reliable; phones went from dumb to smart to, for many, their primary computer; and internet-based companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon graduated from niche players to embrace and dominate the world at large.
It’s been a transformative period for lots of reasons and in lots of ways. And products and services that have been there the whole time have been transformed almost continuously. You’d probably be surprised at what they looked like and how limited they were not long ago. Many things we take for granted today online were invented and popularized just in the last decade.
But the last few years have seen drastically diminished returns. Where Facebook used to add features regularly that made you rely on it more and more, now it is desperately working to find ways to keep people online. Why is that?
Well, we just sort of reached the limit of what a platform like Facebook can or should do, that’s all! Nothing wrong with that.
It’s like improving a car no matter how many features you add or engines you swap in, it’ll always be a car. Cars are useful things, and so is Facebook. But a car isn’t a truck, or a bike, or an apple, and Facebook isn’t (for example) a broadcast medium, a place for building strong connections, or a VR platform (as hard as they’re trying).
The things that Facebook does well and that we have all found so useful sharing news and photos with friends, organizing events, getting and staying in contact with people haven’t changed considerably in a long time. And as the novelty has worn off those things, we naturally engage in them less frequently and in ways that make more sense to us.
Facebook has become the platform it was intended to be all along, with its own strengths and weaknesses, and its failure to advance beyond that isn’t a bad thing. In fact, I think stability is a good thing. Once you know what something is and will be, you can make an informed choice about it.