Like many of us human beings, mega tech companies too have resolutions. Facebook welcomes 2018 with a new announcement for the two billion platform users just halfway into the first month of the year. Now claiming to be more focused than ever in cultivating interactions and generally increasing ‘user well-being’, Mark Zuckerberg has made it his personal agenda to “devote 2018 to ‘fixing’ Facebook.” With such large amount of users, any changes – even the slightest alterations – made are surely of great significance. With great power, comes great responsibility.
On January 11, Facebook declared that they will implement changes to their News Feed for the purpose of displaying posts from friends and family primarily and in the process reduce posts from brands and organizations. Altering their current News Feed mechanism that is based on likes, posting time and popularity, Facebook now prioritizes posts that will encourage users to comment and/or in any way respond by being proactive on the platform. The keyword that they are trying to adhere to is to build meaningful interactions and spark conversations among other users. Facebook had observed that previously users merely passively scroll through their feed as breaking news videos, news stories and general business posts fill up their timelines. Bottom line is, they want to change this and try to ‘rebalance’ how their algorithms rank posts on user timelines.
Consequences of the changes
The question is, what will ensue from this change? Facebook foresees that public contents such as advertisements will need to adapt to this change in requirement to be able to be relevantly included in the main timeline. Is there then hope that advertising tactics would become more ‘friendly’ and not so much more manipulative? There is also talk about the potential of filter bubbles infiltrating public opinion formation. Adam Mosseri, Facebook Vice President, argues that these filter bubbles will only help to voice out the opinions of friends and family rather than verified publishers belonging to the organizations that users follow. Diversified opinions could originate from friends and family, not publisher accounts who stick to their own agenda; this in turn would trigger conversations and hence create meaningful interactions on the platform.
It’s important to me that when Max and August grow up they feel like what their father built was good for the world – Mark Zuckerberg
Zuckerberg’s personal motivation
Doing the right thing requires great sacrifice. Zuckerberg perceives this change as the greater good for the company’s bottom line. In other words, by implementing these changes Facebook will also experience a decrease in video watch time, page reach and generally user frequency. And yet, these sacrifices would be made in the hopes that there is an increased value for every time users open Facebook, even though it might just be for a minute or two. In an interview for New York Times, Zuckerberg addressed that he wants to make his children proud of his achievements, “It’s important to me that when Max and August grow up they feel like what their father built was good for the world.”
Enhancing humanity through Facebook
Let us all hope that 2018 will bring about great changes that would enhance humanity to find greater values among communities and societies. We’ve been introduced to the proliferation of fake news, foreign election meddling, hate crime, and many other negativity in the media that we shouldn’t have to pursue and witness further in the upcoming year(s). I say we see through this new Facebook update and see whether it does encourage greater meaningful interactions that would spark more people to care about social and political issues.
Cover: Brian Solis / Final editor: Kyle Hassing