Facebook users are expected to see fewer posts from publishers, businesses and celebrities they follow. Instead, the social media site wants people to see more stuff from friends, family and other people they are likely to know and connect with, it is something the company feels has been lost in the sea of videos and news stories.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been doing a bit of soul-searching about the negative effects his company may be having on society and its users’ psyches. Now it’s his personal goal for 2018 to fix the site and weed out hate, abuse, meddling by malicious nation states, while also making it more meaningful and less depressing for users. Zuckerberg says that the company currently makes too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing the misuse of our tools.
The company also faces pressure from regulators in the U.S. and abroad, and a growing backlash from academics, lawmakers and investors about the ways in which social media may be leaving us depressed, isolated, bombarded by online trolls and addicted to our phones.
This is a huge shift for Facebook, which until recently has been laser-focused on keeping users glued to the service by offering a bevy of notifications and ‘engaging’ but low-value material.
The company has been doing well so it can afford to shift its focus a bit away from quarterly profit gains and metrics like ‘user engagement’ that get advertisers salivating. Zuckerberg already signalled this would happen late last year, when he said the company’s planned investments in preventing abuse would hurt profitability.
While the changes could hurt Facebook’s business in the short term, happier users could make for better profits over the long term. At least, that’s what the company hopes.
Many news organizations, bloggers and businesses have grown reliant on Facebook to spread information — articles, videos, infomercials — to their followers without paying for ads. The changes could jeopardize that route to their audiences, though some speculate it could be a ploy to force these companies to buy more Facebook ads.
Admitting that its changes will likely reduce the time people spend on Facebook less was a big deal for the company. Video, especially, has been a big focus for the social media giant — and videos have been especially good at keeping users around. This latest move, however, will de-emphasize videos too.
While it’s too early to tell what users will do, there’s little reason not to trust Facebook on this particular question.