I was talking to a friend of mine the other day who said three things that really surprised me about Facebook: 1) He was no longer on it and didn't plan to go back. 2) His teenagers are never on it (kind of like mine, they stay pretty much within the confines of Instagram and Snapchat). 3) His elderly mother just joined Facebook.
On any other day, none of these would have even been conversation, but within the context of the charges that Facebook is 1) being widely used for propaganda by entities not friendly to the United States; 2) not very well-policed beyond porn; and 3) has been purpose-built to hook you and your kids into an addictive relationship -- then perhaps my friend's revelations are worth further exploration.
This is a guy who's all over every new development in the digital space. It's hard to come to him with a "Have you heard about" find that he doesn't already know about. In fact, he has probably already talked to the founders, their backers and 15 or 20 users. He has forgotten more about social media than most of us will ever know.
Yet, due to what I can only deduce is moral indignation, he has stopped posting to Facebook.
My reading is that he sees more harm in participating and contributing to its bottom line (if only as someone to target with an ad impression) than the consequences of missing out on what his friends and business associates might be posting there.
While his move might well be driven by what he sees as the potential harm to his kids, it is nevertheless a boycott by someone loath to miss out on anything important. So there's real conviction here, not just impulse.
I know my life could comfortably go on if Facebook disappeared tomorrow, but I am also a guy who still likes to read dead-tree newspapers, so I doubt Zuckerberg is losing sleep over my languid enthusiasm.
I don't think my friend has forbidden his kids from being on Facebook. It's their choice to be elsewhere.
This, I think, is significant. I wrote a very long time ago that when tomorrow's youth move on and don't care about your product any more, you have a life-threatening problem. Kids made Facebook -- they can kill it.
Which gets us to my friend's last revelation: that his elderly mom has just started to post. Nothing will help chase kids out faster than seeing their parents and other older relatives on the same platform. It means kids no longer feel they have any privacy -- and besides, moms tend to post truly embarrassing stuff that no one wants their friends to see.
Combine this with the growing pressure from parents to limit exposure to social media on cell phones (unplugging the WiFi at bedtime is often a great solution, as is restricting charging to the hallway at night) and emerging studies that prove overexposure to social media can leave kids depressed and unproductive -- and you have a little flame in the dry brush in the canyon above the house of Facebook.
Interesting to see what happens when the Santa Anas kick up.