Facebook morphs into a clickhole, at the expense of personal sharing

Surveillance capitalism continues to astound and confound: as Facebook has turned into the traffic-factory life-support for ad-supported media — and as Facebook profits from those companies by charging for "access" to their own followers — the amount of personal sharing on Facebook is dropping off sharply.

Erin Griffith suggests that this may spell the historically overdue end of Facebook, which has thus far evaded the fate of all other social networks — either failing to break out into the mainstream, or going so mainstream that it ceases to have the feeling of a personal, friendly network.

As Facebook becomes a kind of viral content recommendation factory, it also becomes more of a commodity — there's interesting articles everywhere, but Facebook built its empire on being the only place you could come to learn about what the people you loved were up to. If someone else can capture that niche, Facebook ceases to have a unique advantage.

One little problem: Professional content can be found anywhere online. It wouldn't be that difficult for a competitor to steal users away with a better, more addicting news app, or a better, more addicting way to watch viral videos, or a new, more addicting way to consume entertainment. Beyond that, all those inside jokes, blurry photos, and half-baked opinions you used to Post now feel out-of-place amid all the professional content.

On the other hand, personal updates—including the half-based opinions, but also the baby photos, engagement announcements, and vacation photos—are what keep people coming back to Facebook. It's unlikely that users will get that information anywhere else, and they don't want to miss important life updates from their friends and family. Without the personal updates, Facebook becomes a glorified, $327 billion content recommendation engine.

Facebook Struggles to Stop Decline in 'Original' Sharing
[Amir Efrati/The Information]

Facebook Users Are Sharing Fewer Personal Updates and It's a Big Problem

[Erin Griffith/Fortune]