On Facebook’s 10th Anniversary, A Few Status Updates

2014 marks the tenth anniversary of Facebook. As the site sees a decline in its youth user base, Facebook continues to receive loads of attention from people speculating about its future and its effect on our lives. No one really seems to be taking the claim of two Princeton PhD candidates seriously that Facebook will fall completely in the next three years, but the future of Facebook is nevertheless uncharted territory.

Now with 1 billion users, Facebook is connecting the world in unprecedented ways. So even if Facebook is reaching the end of its “cool” days, it’s still a goldmine for the data nerd in all of us.  Here are a few status updates on the world’s most popular social media site.

Facebook is impacting our moods….somehow.

A recent article in the New Yorker examines some of the conflicting data on how Facebook effects our emotions.  One University of Michigan study asked participants about their mood and found that low spirits correlated with increased Facebook use. Other studies have linked Facebook use with envy and loneliness. (By now, many social media users have experienced the anxiety of FOMO.) On the other hand, some research argues that Facebook can boost our moods.

The major phenomena at odds seem to be “social comparison” vs. “social trust and engagement.”  The author of the New Yorker article, Maria Konnikova, astutely points out that Facebook’s effect on users generally corresponds to how it’s being used. If we passively consume information in our news feed, we’re likely to feel left out. But Facebook makes sharing events in our lives incredibly easy, which has been shown to be psychologically beneficial.

Facebook shares highlights for its tenth anniversary.

If you look at an old Facebook screenshot, you may barely recognize the site. Aside from the website’s trademark blue and white design, it looks far different than it did the year after it launched. A lot of features have been added, virtually buried (remember poking?) or replaced.

Image from Slate.com

Image from Slate.com

A 10th anniversary timeline created by Facebook includes two features that have stuck around: the like button and the news feed. The newsfeed radically changed user experience, and sparked a lot of controversy when it was introduced in 2006. In the following years, the newsfeed has had a radical impact on how information is presented and consumed on the internet.

USA Today gives Facebook some advice.

Mark Zuckerberg is known to be a bit stubborn about certain things, but that doesn’t keep people from making their suggestions about where Facebook should go next. USA Today recently put forth their two cents worth, saying that the company should diversify, satisfy marketers, create specialized mobile apps, and focus on privacy concerns.

The last on the list may be vital if Facebook expects to keep its robust user base. One study attempting to predict the future of Facebook by looking at the essentially defunct site, Friendster, says that social media sites tend to lose their users in cascades. One incident will prompt a wave of people to leave, and the site’s value immediately declines for their friends. Harvard sociologist, Jason Kaufman predicts that a massive security breach might be the only thing big enough to make this happen to Facebook.

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