I was asked on a television show the other day why Facebook has been losing millions of users over the past few months and gave the worst possible answer.
“I don’t know.”
(Cable television hates talking heads who aren’t willing to give a decisive, matter-of-fact opinion whether they know what they are talking about or not.)
But I don’t know. Maybe people are growing tired of it, or find it less interesting. Maybe they feel it has become too commercial, too mainstream or too uncool for their cutting edge lifestyles. Or maybe they just ran out of time - time to constantly update their status, to take care of their Farmville crops, or to manage the hundreds of friends they don’t even know.
The simple truth is nothing lasts forever and perhaps Facebook is seeing the beginning of its end. Or maybe these past three months of losses in the US, UK and Canada are merely a blip in the growing FB Universe that will continue to dominate the world. Who knows? More importantly, who cares? If Facebook fades into the history books alongside the Slinky, Betamax video tape, and disco music we will barely even notice.
I know that seems hard to believe given the force it has become, but it’s true. We fill the voids in our lives pretty quickly. Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, or some other social media not even dreamed up yet will take its place in the blink of an eye and we won’t feel a thing. Mainly because these sorts of transitions don’t occur in the blink of an eye, but are rather slow, gradual transitions that often move at a glacial pace. We just wake up one day and realize that we haven’t checked our Facebook account in a week, or a month, or a year.
It makes good television to talk about the end of anything in apocalyptic terms. As if it will be accompanied by fire, flooding and swarms of locusts. The dullness of reality, however, never follows that script. The Roman Empire declined over hundreds of years, not overnight. Pan Am and Woolworths took decades.
Facebook will cease to be a part of our lives one day, but when that will happen is anyone’s guess. My fellow guest on that cable news show is certain it will be 2014. That may not be accurate, but it sure does make for good television. Stay tuned.