Facebook’s recent financial numbers don’t look that great. Apparently, the social media giant is going the way of MySpace and AOL chatrooms. They are failing to maintain the attention of Generation Z (that may or may not stand for “Zombie,” btw). Apparently the younger generation is far more concerned about privacy and real connections—they are currently popularizing private message services like WhatsApp and WeChat.
A recent article in The Guardian hypothesizes on why this may be the case:
Part of the reason is [the] gradual encroachment of the grey-haired ones on Facebook. Another is what messaging apps have to offer: private chatting with people you are friends with in real life. Instead of passively stalking people you barely know on Facebook, messaging apps promote dynamic real-time chatting with different groups of real-life friends, real life because to connect with them on these apps you will typically already have their mobile number. The trend flies in the face of recurring criticism of young people – that their social lives are largely virtual – when many more are in fact embracing the virtues of privacy and services like WhatsApp, which shun advertising.
This is an interesting trend to me. It indicates that though my generation (Generation Y or “The Millennials”) has been oft-criticized for narcissism, Generation Z seems to care less about personal exhibition and virtual notoriety, and cares more about real connection and transparency.
This also indicates that advertising is going to have to change in the future in order to continue to be worthwhile. Currently, Facebook ads and online banners generate a lot of revenue for the people who invest in them. This is in spite of the fact that my generation rarely if ever clicks on ads. But we are still exposed to these ads every day on Facebook and the internet at large, and perhaps we are still somewhat susceptible to sub-conscious branding. But the upcoming generation isn’t just not clicking on ads. They are hardly even seeing them. Ads don’t register for most of them.
This may portend major changes in the way the internet is structured. If ads can’t pay for original content, then content-providers will be forced to move toward a subscription model (a la Netflix). Even sites like ours may eventually have to move in that direction. This shift in advertising has already resulted in more “embedded” advertisement: ad placements that blend into their content environments without any self-consciousness as ads. There may come a time when commercials and content become indistinguishable.
In the meantime, it may be a good idea to invest your money (and your time for that matter) outside of Facebook.