Facebook recently announced that it has changed its News Feed to prioritize “meaningful social interactions” over “relevant content”.

The news Feed algorithm apparently now prioritises content and updates created by user’s friends and family, and de-prioritises “public content” from businesses and other media outlets.

In Zuckerberg’s words, “It’s important to me that when Max and August grow up that they feel what their father built was good for the world.”

He’s taking a ‘good for community, good for business’ approach for the long term.

Good or bad?

Now my first reaction was great. It gets rid of all the ‘fake’ news and crap.

I have always been an advocate for “meaningful engagement” as a way for marketers to deliver measurable business value via their marketing activity. As well as trying to have more meaningful conversation and connection in using social media.

However this only works with a select group of people that want to be meaningfully engaged. It doesn’t work with all people.

Hence, it’s a targeted strategy, not a one size fits all, spray and prey approach.

So thinking a little more about Facebook’s latest change, I said to myself, “WTF”:

  • They’re devaluing customers (people) who are passive (ie: like to read, observe and passively scroll versus actively like, view, share, or comment)
  • They’re at risk of up-weighting interaction even if it’s ranting and mass abuse
  • They’re assuming that people want to connect meaningfully on Facebook with family and friends versus just using it as a part of their overall ‘interaction’ approach to life
  • They’re ignoring trends about divorced families and the challenge of both divorced parents maintaining strong interaction with their children
  • They’re failing to understand the bigger picture that many psychologists and studies have revealed, that social media use has led to significant rises in anxiety and depression. Especially with youth segments who have been unable to regulate their usage patterns. Although Zuckerberg says that the reason for the change is partly due to research that they’ve done that reveals lower mental well-being. Hence he believes that a ‘friends and family’ skewed content approach solves the usage of social media conundrum.
  • They’re failing to understand how family and friends communicate, especially ones that have moved or live overseas and may not want to communicate as regularly as family and friends living in the same local area or city do.
  • They’re failing to understand sensitivities of families from different cultures and with different belief systems.
  • And they’re ignoring one major reality of relationship dynamics within family and friend networks. That life has ups and downs, and not all relationships are positive all of the time. In reality, relationships need nurturing, a lot of empathy, and sometimes, private counsel in order to survive. And at the end of the day some relationships simply don’t last. Thinking that broadcasting all of this within Facebook is ‘meaningful’ is just plain crazy.

So if we all step back for a minute

The implication in all of this is that interacting with people you know is healthy and more meaningful, but interacting with brand and media content is less so.

And interacting with family and friends on the whole is a good thing.

Now, just to clarfy. I love my family and friends. And we use Facebook to varying degrees to keep in touch. I’m not saying that I prefer media and brand content. I just think it’s a token move by Facebook.

This feels so out of step with reality that I question what is Facebook’s role in society now?

It started out as an idea to perve on chicks from other American Colleges.

Is Facebook really good for the world?

Imagine if Zuckerberg came out with a strategy that actually did understand and deliver on all the points above and clearly outlined Facebook as part of the solution.

And clearly positioned it within a family and friends relationship & wellbeing context. Backed and endorsed by relationship specialists, health professionals, and communication experts.

Now that would be powerful and interesting and would represent goodwill baked into the ethos of a company, rather than glib gestures after chasing revenue through monetising a platform of users.

Somehow I doubt this change will deliver on Zuckerberg’s meaningful wish.

Although Maccas managed to shift public perception and reality with salads, McCafe, new ingredient sourcing, and greater openness about their move to healthier food and menu options based on society’s shift in attitude on food.

So maybe I will be proven wrong about Facebook.  

I wonder what you think?