Do we really need Facebook in 2021?

Facebook started off as a networking platform about two decades ago to connect people and from then on, it has served multiple purposes. But, with many communication and multimedia alternatives available now, do we still need Facebook?

 

If you’ve seen the Hollywood film ‘The Social Network’, you would know that Mark Zuckerberg and his fellow classmates from Harvard kicked off a social networking platform in 2004 to help students within the university get to know one another.


A still from the 2010 film ‘The Social Network’. Jesse Eisenberg (third from left) plays the role of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook (Image credit: IMDB)


Within a year of its inception, the reach of Facebook spread to other Ivy league colleges in the United States and Europe.


One of the earliest Facebook homescreens in 2007 (Image credit: Shareaholic)


In 2006, after being made available for anyone above 13 years of age with just an email address, it began to take over the world. The main idea behind initiating the platform was to enable people to share photos, videos, etc and communicate with one another through ‘Facebook Messenger’.


Representation image of a Facebook messenger screen (Image credit: Unsplash)


It's not just about connecting people anymore

A few decades later, Facebook became much more than a platform for uploading snapshots and messaging people. Some of the other functions it is catering to are as follows -


Facebook for Business was mainly aimed to promote small and local businesses across the world. However, later, even bigger brands began leveraging it to give a push to their business.


Facebook marketplace on the other hand was built with the idea of creating a digital marketplace to buy and sell new or used products. All sorts of products from everyday items to even slightly valuable things such as gadgets, musical instruments or vehicles are put up there.


Facebook Groups were devised to connect people with similar interests. The feature enables users to also organise activities including photography, sports, theater, poetry, music and dance, where they can share their work and communicate with the other members in the group. A lot of metropolitan cities have distinct groups through which people can search for flatmates and houses. Akash Singh, a student pursuing a Masters in Sports Management at Mumbai, obtained a rented accommodation through one such group.

“I joined the Flats & Flatmates (Mumbai) group on Facebook, just before leaving my hometown, Kolkata. There were many good options to choose from near my college and well within my budget,” Singh says.

Facebook Events are more often than not used by tour operators to attract people. Gaurav Kumar, an IT professional from Jalandhar, but presently based in Mumbai, has been leveraging Facebook events to participate in cycling tours.

“There are many night cycling events in South Mumbai and trekking camps in Lonavala, that I usually enrol in along with my colleagues. I find most of them through the event pages on Facebook”, says Kumar.

Live streaming was a feature that was initially meant for individuals and organisations to showcase their work or products. For example, whenever a technology firm introduced a new smartphone or device, the entire launch event was streamed live on Facebook with the objective of reaching large audiences across the country and even beyond. This holds good even today.


Representation image of a Facebook Live streaming in progress (Image credit: Unsplash)


Interactive and explainer videos have been quite useful for many individuals and research organizations since it attempts to contextualise and explain news and complex information.

Tanmoy Mitra, an engineer who is currently working at a private firm in Kolkata, emphasises, “I mostly watch explainer videos of Brut India and other news groups on Facebook, while travelling to office in the morning.”

How do different user groups use Facebook

Facebook presently caters to multiple user groups who belong to different age groups.

Mitra says, “I don’t use Facebook only to keep track of news and socialise with friends, but also for scavenging new job opportunities.”

Ritam Mukherjee, a freelance video journalist from Kolkata, uses it to interact with his fellow journalists.

“I use Facebook to get to know about the work that other journalists are doing across the world. During the lockdown in 2020, I watched a lot of masterclass videos around journalism most of which were streamed live. This helped me in honing my skills to a great extent”, he notes.

Besides the young generation, people who are above 50 years also seem to be active on Facebook. 60-year-old Debjani Roy, a homemaker based in Kolkata, uses the app on her phone regularly.

“We have a friends’ poetry group on Facebook, where we share our musings. Also, just before Durga Puja and college reunions, all my friends actively plan events and activities on the platform”, adds Roy.

Rise of other alternatives

According to statistics, the number of new users on Facebook has continuously spiked in the last ten years.


The number of daily active Facebook users worldwide (Numbers in millions) in the last decade has been on the rise (Image credit: Statista)


But, at the same time, there has been a flurry of other social media platforms. Whatsapp is being considered as an easier and quicker alternative to Facebook Messenger, Instagram is increasingly being used to share pictures and visuals and platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams to make video calls.


New video-calling platforms like Zoom, Google Meet and Skype are among the current favourites for video-calls. Representation image (IMage credit: Unsplash)

“I upload all my personal pictures on Instagram, but I rarely put them up on Facebook”, says Singh who uses Facebook mainly to network groups.

While Whatsapp and Instagram are emerging as alternatives to Facebook, both of them were eventually acquired by the latter.


Two of the features that have been going strong as part of Facebook are the groups and the marketplaces. A lot of the users have been flocking to Facebook marketplace (over other options like OLX and Quikr) to buy and sell things, and to interact with various communities.


So, it is safe to say that Facebook’s significance is being thwarted to a certain extent. A recent analysis done by eMarketer, shows the average time spent by social media users in the US, between the period of 2016 to 2021. This analysis was done for adults over the age of 18, with profiles on all the three apps - Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.


The eMarketer analysis reiterates the gradual decline in the time spent on Facebook (Image credit: Mashable/eMarketer)


Clearly, the gradual decline in the time spent on Facebook, implies that instead of spending the majority of the time on Facebook, like they used to previously, people are also getting onto a slew of other social media platforms, most notably Instagram.


 

Edited by Roshni Shroff, Cover image illustration by Pratyush Thaker

 

Some resources and links to help you learn more about Facebook -

  1. 16 Years of Facebook: A Marketing Evolution Story

  2. Facebook’s Broken Vows