Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Will Donald Trump Be the Death of Facebook?

This isn’t a political post, nor is it a “Facebook is dead” post. Rather, it’s an observation of my Facebook feed over the last few weeks. I’m guessing your feed has been similar and that you sure some of my thoughts:

As voting day approached last November, most of us were ready for the election to be over. Political Facebook posts inundated us trying to persuade everyone to one side or the other. We put up with them during the election…and the TV ads, the postcards and mailers and the phone calls. We could see the end coming as the election passed. But, then Donald Trump won. The ads, postcards and calls stopped. But the Facebook posts haven’t. They keep coming.

People post everything Trump does. And they include commentary, opinions, complaints and snarky remarks. And those are followed by more replies and arguments. Users are getting overwhelmed which is not good for Facebook.

Facebook As a News Source

Some of this is their own doing. Mark Zuckerberg made a concerted effort to make Facebook a place for users to search for news and comment on it. Zuckerberg wanted to move the conversations from Twitter to Facebook. What we’re finding out is that most users don’t go to Facebook for that purpose.

Most people prefer to use Facebook to get news about their family and friends, not politics. And, definitely not for political arguments. With all the posts about Trump and everyone’s opinions about them, people are starting to get fed up.

What Can You Do About It?

Many users are starting to unfollow people that make too many political posts. This has two downsides. First, as Mark Schaefer point out in his Facebook post, it cuts off visibility into dissenting opinions (and in some cases, actual facts!). Mark Schaeffer raised this point through a Facebook post. After the unfriending, everyone we’re connected to will be just like us. Without exposure to other viewpoints, this will go farther in dividing people.

The second problem is that people will miss out on non-political posts they may want to see. Most people don’t only post political comments. It’s usually mixed in with other posts that their friends enjoy. By unfriending them, they won’t get to see those.

I’m guessing there are quite a few of us who are too lazy to go to the trouble of unfriending people. Yes, I’m including myself in this group. For us, there’s a Google Chrome plug-in available that blocks political posts. Some people are cutting way back on their Facebook usage or leaving it altogether.

What Happens Next?

What effect will this have on Facebook’s long term viability? Probably not much. Things will start to normalize. But, I have seen reactions I don’t think I’ve ever seen by Facebook users in such a prolonged and growing way. That open up some opportunities for other platforms.
Some new players could enter the mix. We could see a social media start-up with a focus on political commentary only. This would offer an outlet for those that want give their opinions.

Current social media platforms could promote their lack of political and negative postings. Instagram (owned by Facebook) and Snapchat are two platforms that come to mind. Their focus on photos and videos don’t lend themselves as well to political commentary. I’m not saying there isn’t any, but I don’t notice it often.

Facebook should be paying attention to how their users are reacting to the political posts. Add to that their fake news issues and Facebook can learn a lot about how people want to use their platform. Just because Facebook wants to be a news commentary source, that doesn’t mean that’s how we want to use it. It should use this data to evolve the service into what we are saying we want. Time will tell if Zuckerberg is paying attention.

How are you adjusting your Facebook usage with all of the political posts? Share it in the comments below. Thanks for reading and if you like this post, please share it with your friends.

Donald Trump Image Source: DonkeyHotey via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

1 comment: