Facebook fights for relevancy
Ask most Towson students when the last time they had a “wall to wall” Facebook conversation was and there’s a good chance they don’t remember.
When Facebook unveiled their “timeline” in 2011, it became the start of new wave of Facebook utilization. Facebook’s focus shifted from friend-to-friend interaction to showcasing its users and their “lifetimes.”
“Right around the end of middle school, that’s when pretty much everyone in my circle got on Facebook, so I used it to keep in touch with my friends over the summer,” sophomore Nnamdi Odoazu said.
Today, the computer science major still checks his Facebook for daily updates, but his main social media tools are Twitter, Tumblr, Vine and Instagram.
And he’s not the only one. Many Towson students are using Facebook differently than they did even two years ago. However, Facebook’s usage is so integrated into their daily lives that they won’t deactivate, unlike older social networks like Myspace, Odoazu said.
Freshman music composition major Darren Schmidt said that for him, Facebook is a more of a distraction than anything, however he still checks it several times per week.
“ I need to focus on my studies,” Schmidt said. “And I just found that Facebook was a time waster. You spend hours on it and you look up and you’re like, ‘oh that time’s gone.’”
But despite students like Schmidt decreasing their Facebook use, its number of users still exceeds that of Twitter.
As of September 2, Facebook had nearly 1.15 billion users while Twitter has 500 million total users, according to ExpandedRamblings.com.
Lecturer Garry Bolan, a professor of MCOM 333: Social Media and Strategic Communication, has been teaching his social media course for the last four years.
During this time, Bolan said he’s watched different social media trends come and go. However Facebook, he said, is here to stay.
“[Facebook has] become established with corporate organizations,” Bolan said. “It’s because of the profit making, [something] MySpace wasn’t able to establish. Facebook is just not going to be able to go away. It’s become an entity engraved in American lifestyle, bridging age groups.”
As of Aug. 26, Facebook capped $100 billion in market shares, according to FactSet. In comparison, LinkedIn has a market cap of approximately $32 billion, while Twitter’s is currently valued at about $10 billion.
“Facebook and other big corporations like Apple and Microsoft are smart in the sense that when they see another product growing, like Instagram, they go and purchase it,” Bolan said. “That’s why I would suspect Facebook isn’t going to go away, it’s going to continue to integrate Facebook with other products that it has in order to get people to keep coming back.”
So while students may not be using Facebook the same way that they used to, each time they use Instagram, they are still using a product of Facebook.
Freshman nursing major Kayla Brown said that for her, Facebook has become a social burden.
While she still has an account, she rarely uses it. However, she is an avid Instagram user.
“I don’t like people putting their business out there [on Facebook], as in where they are, what they’re doing,” Brown said. “[On Instagram] pictures are just pictures and there’s limited writing.”
Brown isn’t the only one out there who feels that way. Other large tech companies have followed Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s lead in creating social media-type conglomerates.
Last May, Yahoo! purchased the blogging site, Tumblr, for $1.1 billion. Meanwhile, Twitter bought the video app Vine for $970 million in April 2012.
As these corporations grow larger and larger, so does their connectivity. Post something to Instagram? Click a box and post to Facebook. Make a Vine? Tweet it out.
“I have seen a much more savvy generation,” Bolan said. “The first day of class I do a little questionnaire on what forms of social media have you used. The first year it was pretty much Facebook and LinkedIn. Now that’s changed, where it’s just a given that most individuals in the class have seven to 10 apps that they regularly visit.”
While young people will continue to look for the next best thing, companies like Facebook will continue to do so as well.
“It’s all these major organizations are looking to capture the market,” Bolan said. “You could even go back to television and ask, ‘how did all these networks start?’ CBS, ABC, NBC [followed a] very similar pattern, they saw a trend a jumped on it. Soon we just had three networks. I think social media is going through the same process of determining the final picture.”
- Cody Boteler and Brandon Wharton contributed to this article