Facebook’s last stand
Humans are simple.
We pretend that we aren’t, but we are. The psychologist Abraham Maslow illustrated this well more than 60 years ago when he first published what’s come to be known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
The theory isn’t perfect, of course, but it nails a lot of what makes us tick. We work towards things that provide us with security, love and self-actualization. The need for those things is what makes us work for the money we need to feed ourselves, hit the gym to be attractive to a mate and pick up a book to read from time to time.
However, what the theory doesn’t address is that humans also have a dark side. In addition to wanting to do things to benefit ourselves, we also have an instinct to push others down. I’m not a psychologist, but I suspect the root of that is tied into our caveman past. In simpler times, we didn’t get that food unless we killed something to earn it, whether that was the animal or the person trying to prevent you from eating it. When someone encroached on our space, or our loved ones, we lashed out. Kill or be killed.
Obviously, we’re not caveman any longer, but those instincts remain. Specifically, we have a need for vengeance. Humans want sacrificial blood to be spilled whenever they feel that things are going wrong.
We are currently watching this need play out in the Big Tech space, where no one is happy with the state of technology or its hold on our lives. It really doesn’t matter if you are on the right or the left, you are angry at Big Tech right now.
And you’re especially angry at Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. And, increasingly, I think that anger might just take him and the company down.
His latest challenge starts Thursday when he’s at the U.S. Congress to speak to the company’s roll in the January protest/riots in the US capital. Finding out if Facebook was at fault for that isn’t really the point of the hearing. No, making it seem like they are doing something and punishing someone for it is.
For what it’s worth, I personally don’t think Facebook caused people to overrun the Capital. Facebook is agnostic. It only cares about driving engagement on its platform, which in turn creates profit for them. What they’ve found is that the best way to do that is to silo people into echo chambers where their beliefs and feelings are validated (see Maslow, Self-Actualization from above to understand this).
Facebook’s biggest mistake isn’t that it does this, but rather that it didn’t pick a side. They’ve managed to make everyone angry at them and everyone is convinced that the company is on the other side trying to silence the “correct” side of the debate. That makes them the perfect candidate to be the sacrificial lamb to appease society’s bloodlust towards Big Tech right now.
Truthfully, the villainization of Facebook and of Zuckerberg has been happening for a few years, but recent unease has pushed it to a breaking point. The extreme right and left are flocking away from the platform and teenagers are embarrassed to be associated with it. Even if they aren’t sacrificed in the name of society’s need for vengeance, the influence of the platform is on the wane. It’s only a matter of time until Facebook is only being used by grandmothers sharing muffin recipes anyway.
For Facebook it’s likely down to whether their head is chopped off quickly now, or if they die a slow death later.
Either way, its time as the top dog in the Social Media landscape is nearing its end.