Facebook rose over the 2010s to become synonymous with the phrase “social media.” Early on in the decade, Facebook was seen as reasonably benign, or at least an improvement over the 2000s’ MySpace. However, public sentiment took a major turn as the decade wore on, and Facebook’s influence (for better or worse) grew and grew. As of the end of the decade, Facebook left many clamoring for an alternative… but unlike MySpace, there’s no clear replacement for Facebook.
Below are a few highlights (such as they are) for Facebook over the 2010s.
That weird “Archie” crossover with Facebook
As part of Archie Comics’ ongoing revitalization efforts, in the early 2010s Archie had a strange crossover. In “Archie” #624 (October 2011), Riverdale’s teenage genius Dilton Doiley met up with Mark Zuckerberg; the former was trying to create a Riverdale High-oriented social network.
Of course, this was written early in the decade, when Facebook was still fairly popular among teenagers. Nowadays, Facebook’s audience has aged, with most youth having moved onto Snapchat, Tik Tok, and other social media services. (They’re also moving to Instagram, though that’s owned by Facebook.)
The rise and fall of various Facebook rivals
For most of the decade, people were desperate for alternatives to Facebook. As such, various attempts came and went. Several prominent ones include:
- Ello, which still exists, but gets little attention.
- Mastodon, which has gained some attention as the most popular of the “federated” social platforms, though it’s more of a Twitter alternative. Its usage also still pales versus Facebook (or Twitter).
- Google+, the most famous upstart. Despite Google’s aggressive marketing (too aggressive to some), much promise, and being nicer to use than Facebook, not enough users switched. As such, many considered it like a “ghost town,” and Google+ was eventually shut down.
As I wrote before, there doesn’t seem to be any single social network that’s capable of trumping Facebook at this point. Barring something major happening, I don’t see Facebook’s dominance changing in the near future.
Facebook’s many, many, many problems
Besides Facebook’s dominance (and purchases of WhatsApp and Instagram), its other defining trait of this decade’s been its numerous problems. Summarizing some of the major ones:
- Embarrassing security problems.
- Its infamous “pivot to video” push.
- That time it tried to create its own version of Patreon (but worse).
- Its plans to launch its own cryptocurrency (as if cryptocurrency itself wasn’t problematic enough).
- Its role in the 2016 US presidential election, and fears about not doing or changing enough in time for the 2020 election.
- Did someone say “Breitbart?”
- Using the Muppets to promote Portal, an in-home video chat device. It’s the only piece of electronics I’ve seen a review for that literally said “don’t buy [this device]” on the basis of the company in question (versus device quality). (Gizmodo was slightly nicer, calling the Portal’s camera “both creepy and cool,” but the reviewer still ended up sticking a burlap bag over the Portal… which should be an automatic “hard fail” for an electronics device.) Even tech flops like Amazon’s short-lived smartphone efforts didn’t merit that level of warning.
And so on.
I’ve written a lot about Facebook’s ongoing issues, but overall, what I wrote still stands. Facebook’s clearly not planning to do enough on its own about its numerous problems. Thus, something needs to change, either internally (unlikely) or externally (either via regulation or something culturally/technologically that renders it obsolete). Until then, it’s probably the one major tech company whose products are at best used sparingly or on an as-needed basis.
My own Facebook usage
At the start of the decade, I didn’t use Facebook, as I was wary of the service, especially compared to Twitter or having my own blog. However, in 2011 I finally caved and launched my own Facebook page and profile; I figured Zuckerberg’s social network was too big to ignore by that point.
Since then, I’ve also signed up for Instagram (under similar reasons, plus wanting somewhere to display photos). However, as the decade (and Facebook’s problems) wore on, I ended up shuttering my Facebook page several times, though the most recent shuttering a year ago seems to finally be for good. Similarly, I’ve also uninstalled the Facebook and Instagram apps from my mobile devices. The only things keeping me from shuttering my Facebook account outright are online friends and family who only use Facebook, and nothing else. Thus, I still occasionally check in or post on Facebook via my laptop.
On the Instagram side, I still have Twitter and Mastodon as places to post photos. I also still have my Pixelfed account, but that service still seems to be in an experimental stage. As I didn’t use Instagram much, dropping it has had little or no impact on my life.
As for the 2020s, hopefully Facebook either changes (through regulation or some internal reason) or something comes along that renders it obsolete, even if people still cling to it like a modern-day AOL.