Facebook’s Real Crisis

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The author of a New York Times article titled Facebook’s Existential Crisis reports:

“Checking Facebook throughout the day is  a 10-year-old habit I can’t seem to shake, even though it has less and less relevance in my daily life. Facebook no longer feels like a place to share updates with friends, catalog your life events, or play games with them. For me and most of my friends, it is no longer the place people share photos or chat with their friends, or comment on their location. If it is none of those things, then what, exactly, is Facebook? And what will its purpose be in the future? Mark Zuckerberg is well aware of Facebook’s swirling existential crisis and has a plan to deal with it.”

My take: Ah, the short-sightedness of youth. Too bad the New York Times is no place for that.


Apologies in advance for the snarkiness (but check the title of the blog, will ya?), but I got some news for some short-sighted Gen Yers: People change.

That’s right, junior. The fun-loving, stay-out-all-night-on-a-Tuesday-night, collaborative, save-the-world, I-will-avoid-the-mistakes-my-parents-made person you are today might not be the person you will be 10 years from now. The horror!

This might be hard for some Gen Yers to understand, but us Boomers didn’t always fall asleep on the couch at 10:30pm. There was a time when that was when we left the house to go out.


What does this have to do with Facebook?

What the NYT article is describing is not Facebook’s “existential crisis.” It’s describing someone’s process of getting older, changing, and maturing. Sharing every detail of your life, and what you’re thinking and doing, and keeping up with what all your friends are thinking and doing, is all well and fine when you’re 17. But at 27, those things might not be as important to you, as you get married and have kids. Or at least start down the road to those things. 

Sadly, the NYT writer demonstrates no level of self-awareness to recognize these changes. Even sadder (but not unexpected as far as I’m concerned), no one at the newspaper in an editorial capacity reviewed this article and applied the wisdom of experience that comes with getting older to recognize the changes in the writer for what they are.


Facebook doesn’t have a “existential crisis.” It has a target market problem–”challenge” might be the more appropriate word. The dictionary defines “existential” as “grounded in existence or the experience of existence.” If you have any clue what that means, please tell me.

The NYT writer and her friends–who for the past 10 years have been highly engaged with Facebook and what it offers and provides–are moving on.

Facebook’s problem is that the next wave of young people–today’s 12-18 year-olds–are not as engaged with the social media platform as the prior wave was. Facebook isn’t as cool to them as it was to today’s 20-somethings, as this new wave has Snapchat and Instagram, and other alternatives.

Facebook’s challenge isn’t too different from what a lot of companies face: Does it change with the users who fueled the early growth, or focus on driving engagement with the next wave?

For most companies, the right answer is the latter. It’s awfully tough to reinvent a company to keep up with the lifestage changes of a particular segment of consumers.


For Facebook, it means doing something it didn’t really have to do in its first 10 years of existence: Drive engagement. Facebook is going to have get better at marketing. It’s going to have to grow up and mature as a company–just like its early users have.

Hopefully, Facebook will recognize this aging process, even if some of its users don’t. Even those that work for prestigious newspapers.


p.s. In anticipation of the millions of you (more like the 10s of you), who will read this and say “Hey! I’m 50 and I still post to FB and check my friends’ statuses every day!” I will say this: Good for you. Grow up.

Seriously, though, you may be doing this, and you may continue to do it for the next 30 years. You’re in the minority. You’re not normal (I know that because you’re reading this). 

Oh, and please don’t tell that the “over-50 crowd is the fastest growing segment” of Facebook users. Of course it is. It’s a mathematical phenomenon. When 98% of Gen Yers already use FB, the rate of growth in that segment HAS TO BE lower than when the percentage of Boomers who use FB grows from 10% to 15. Please don’t try to use your mathematical ignorance in an argument against me.

Original Post: http://snarketing2dot0.com/2014/04/22/facebooks-real-crisis/