Is Facebook Dispensable?

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Since last Easter I’ve taken a break from excessive use of Facebook and other social media networks. I know, I know, save your comments. I’m not better than you, but I will say, it has saved precious time for other relational and creative pursuits. And I’ll also say, it has been much harder than I’d like to admit. 

Back to my main point.

Cal Newport recently wrote an article called, “On Facebook’s Unique Weakness,” and made some interesting observations. 

He mentioned Facebook losing 120 million dollars last quarter and quoted from another commentator on the brilliance of Facebook’s business model. The other commentator compared Facebook’s business comparable to Apple, Google, and Amazon. He also said despite Facebook’s plummet in revenue, it would recover, and continue its dominance in the market. 

Newport disagrees. He said this:

“While Facebook’s value might be comparable to these other companies at the moment, it suffers from a unique weakness that I don’t think is discussed enough by the professional investor class: it’s dispensable.”

Facebook suffers from a unique weakness… it’s not essential and helpful like smartphones and personal computers of Apple. Google is one of the most important inventions in modern times for research and information seeking. Facebook is not. Amazon, well, what can we say, second largest search engine next to Google. Not to mention the Buy It Now button. 

Facebook is dispensable. 

It might recover from their monetary slump, it might not. But if Apple, Google, or Amazon go away, there will be larger societal problems, for a time, until something else comes along. 

If Facebook vanishes, I think we’ll be okay. 

Social media networks are a fun way to connect, share links, and sometimes, do business. But they are indispensable. They are not essential for the health of a soul, neighborhood, or society. I wonder if the addictive nature of Facebook and other networks keeps them in business?

My subtle move away from social networks is not a righteous act. It’s more about asking: Why do I need this technology? Does it add to my joy? Will it help build deeper relationships? What am I escaping by succumbing to her grip?

Nothing inherently wrong with social media networks. Nothing wrong with seeing how the family is doing on Facebook. But I wonder if our society will start seeing what Newport sees, the unique weakness of Facebook… it’s dispensable.