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If media interpretations of recent self-reported user growth performance – or lack thereof – by Meta (née Facebook) are anything to go by, the social media behemoth might as well be signaling to Houston that they “have a problem.”
However, on one hand – Facebook user numbers declining, in and of itself is not the whole story by any means. On a planet of some 7+ billion people, a “growth slowdown” – once you have captured some 3 billion of those into your social media “hive mind” – might just be inevitable and natural, even if it’s a first instance of a decline in the lifetime of this particular company, which has now been around for 18 years.
But the other side of the equation that seems to show other tech platforms experiencing growth at the same time – means the sum of all those parts may, or may not, actually present interesting information.
Facebook’s 2021 Q4 report shows a loss of some half a million daily users on the global level, against just short of 2 billion active daily users in the previous quarter. And those same announcements suggest that Facebook and its many platforms are chiefly losing their younger user base, who are said to prefer apps like TikTok, and even YouTube.
But the truth is that anyone who’s kept a close eye on the social media scene for some years knows there’s been talk of Facebook “losing the younger demographic” – for years. For that reason, mainstream media’s interpretations of Facebook’s newest quarterly report data can and should be taken with a grain of salt. For some reason… their gripe with Facebook has never been with the giant’s real “crimes” – data and privacy (ab)use and aggressive tracking.
No – the reason legacy media have their sights on Facebook is mostly that it supposedly isn’t censoring enough in the online censorship era ushered in with the 2016 US election, and the pandemic.
With that in mind, there are two big takeaways from reporting about Facebook’s 2021 Q4 report: one, the behemoth is still very much making boatloads of money – “Meta’s total revenue, the bulk of which comes from advertising sales, rose to $33.67 bn in the period, narrowly beating market predictions,” writes the BBC.
And the second – don’t believe legacy media hype.