With Facebook’s stock plunge, analysts are in a frenzy trying to figure out what it means. Some attribute it to the added costs of Facebook policing their site, while others attribute it to the company reaching the saturation point of finding new users. After all, with 2.5 billion users now, it makes it hard to double anytime soon.
My take is quite different. The answer is staring us right in the face, no pun intended. Mark Zuckerberg has brought much of this on himself by his behavior before Congress, the EU, and in a recent interview with Kara Swisher here.
He’s created an intense dislike of himself and his values because he comes across as being distasteful and insincere. He dodges questions and he doesn’t take the most obvious and common sense actions to fix things. He’s trying to thread the needle by avoiding responsibility for what he’s unleashed while making faux apologies and weaving arguments that defy logic. Look at his defense for allowing postings from sites denying the Holocaust and the Sandy Hook massacre for just one example.
As a result, Facebook has become a place that makes people feel dirty and makes them want to spend less time there or leave forever.
People are smart. They’ve learned how their presence on Facebook has led to their personal information being compromised. While we can argue that Facebook users should not have expected privacy, there’s a difference between giving up privacy to legitimate advertisers and handing it over to those creating havoc and dissension in the world.
People by their nature want to be associated with positive things, whether it be a store, a politician, or a product; they avoid those things that feel slimy. At some point, this weighs more heavily than the benefits people derive from the site.
There’s a bigger issue that many have questioned from the beginning. Does the Facebook model work and can it be fixed? By design it’s a means for companies or individuals to direct targeted messages, videos, and news to people with particular beliefs and characteristics. That tool is available to pretty much anyone. But, it’s like fire, guns, or nuclear fuel, all of which can be used both for good and evil and no one’s yet figured out how to prevent one group from getting that power while blocking others. So far Facebook has not proven it can be fixed.
I don’t believe those analysts who say this is just a blip for Facebook, a momentary speed bump. The animosity that Zuckerberg has created, the people around him who are now starting to leave in embarrassment, and the reactions I see from friends and from readers here all indicate a huge amount of negativity. It didn’t have to be. Facebook brought it on themselves by being too cagey, too clever, and too dismissive of users’ concerns. Now they are experiencing the unfortunate results that are mostly of their own making.