Culture

Why Facebook Is Done

It won a few medals, but it’s time to close up the trophy cabinet.

By Emily Brooks

Culture

It won a few medals, but it’s time to close up the trophy cabinet.

By Emily Brooks

Facebook. Is it done? I think so. Something is done when it becomes a New Year’s Resolution. Like smoking. I don’t smoke but I do have Facebook and in the summer of 2017 I decided I was quitting it, as soon as the clock struck midnight on December 31. I even pre-wrote a crappy status in my Iphone notes for the monumental day. I was to post it and then delete my account which is a little counterintuitive. But my stupidity failed even itself and like most New Year’s Resolutions I never followed through. So now I just have News Feed Eradicator installed on my computer and the endless scroll of death is gone; replaced with some quote from Donald Glover’s New Yorker profile aptly titled, “Donald Glover Can’t Save You”. A daily reminder even Donald Glover can’t save Facebook. Because it is done.

If Facebook wasn’t done when it became my New Year’s Resolution, it was done when Cambridge Analytica happened. It was done again when Mark Zuckerberg trundled over to Capitol Hill from Silicon Valley and answered pretty much zero of the questions fielded by politicians about the data breach impacting more than 80 million people. It was done when it became the poster child for Fake News following Trump’s election. It was done when it ran an advertisement on bus stops saying, “Data misuse is not our friend”. It was done when I started using it as an example of bad advertising. It was done years before, when people started calling it The Facebook. It was done when my dad started posting #hashtags with spaces between the words. It was done when The Algorithm changed. And if it came back for one more round, a cat with nine lives, it was done when Zuckerberg claimed Facebook wasn’t a company driven by data and engagement but one driven by meaningful connections. It’s like Zuckerberg in a suit. No one trusts that.

How could a company initially created to rate the hotness of girls at Harvard evolve into a platform establishing millions of meaningful connections. That’s taking even Charles Darwin for a ride. Connections can be made online. Meaningful connections cannot. Meaningful connections require time, require care, and most of all, require all five senses in order to be created. A relationship divided by The Pacific can maintain its meaning through some phone calls and messages but meaning cannot be created from it. Only sustained. For a while. As Gloria Steinem wrote in her memoir, My Life on The Road, the greatest discovery of said life was realising the power of talking circles. Gathering with all five senses allowed for consciousness to change. “You do have all five senses when you’re in a room together,” she said. “You communicate and understand each other in a much deeper way. It is a different form of communication from writing or being on the web.”

 

“Religion, for all its faults, at least got us out of the house.” 

 

Four of the five senses are gone on Facebook and if you want to get technical, sight probably doesn’t even count. You can’t “see” the person you’re conversing with. So, five. If Gloria Steinem doesn’t consolidate this cultural theory for you, some academics might. Numerous studies prove as we’ve become more globally connected than ever before we’ve become more locally isolated than ever before. We’re not going to church and synagogue like we used to and those regular interactions with a community – be it weekly, monthly or daily – are fading as we live smartphone driven lives. And we’re not getting any happier from it. (Proof exists here. And here. And here.) Religion, for all its faults, at least got us out of the house.

Nostalgia for the physical is back on the rise. Books and record sales are increasing again while Kindle growth has stabilized. The traditional magazine and media model has been upgraded to include events and these events are often selling out. Humans are social animals and after the initial boom of social media, the digital party is over. We’re craving meaningful connections face to face. Not on Facebook.

The only good thing left on Facebook is Want A Medal?, a group page dedicated to reposting the statuses of people boasting about some accolade, like graduating from uni, or staying in on a Saturday night, or not staying in on a Saturday night, or celebrating the legalisation of gay marriage with a photo of themselves walking Bondi to Bronte. The genius of Want A Medal? lies not only in its tone and execution. It lies in its quiet confidence to be nothing but itself. Want A Medal isn’t trying to be anything other than what its supposed to be. A side of comic relief. Not the main act. The only problem with Want A Medal is my chrome extension now eradicates its posts from my newsfeed. So I’m calling it. Facebook is done.

Illustration: Patti Andrews