Facebook: Is it becoming a utility?

  Doubtless if you’re reading this, you are a Facebook user.  Why do I say that?  Well, you obviously have access to the internet.  And if you’re reading a blog, you probably like to keep up with what other people are doing.  And, well, you have the internet!  Facebook has quickly become one of the largest social networking tools on the internet, and it comes to no surprise that many are on it.  But do you like Facebook?

  According to a recent article in The New York Times by Joshua Brustein, you may hate it but still use it.  Why?  Brustein notes that Facebook is trying to become a lot like a utility company – a necessary evil if you will.  But how many of us view Facebook as a necessary evil?  I often do.  After all, I waste countless hours during my week performing my good duties as a Facebook user: updating my status, doing the appropriate amount of Facebook stalking, commenting on others’ wall posts and pictures.  Who wouldn’t be exhausted after all of that?  How often has your life been bombarded by the existence of Facebook?  You stop in the middle of something terribly interesting and fun to update your status because God forbid you should be doing something amazing and everyone not know about it.  Or how about those times you force someone to take a ridiculous picture of you that you have posed for JUST for the sake of making it your new profile picture?  Oh come on – you know you do it.

  But we don’t have to do these things, so why do we?  It appears that the “powers that be” at Facebook may be more brilliant than we thought.  Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, states: “We’re here to build something useful.  Something that’s cool can fade. But something that’s useful won’t. That’s what I meant by utility.”  So if you thought Facebook was just a cool fad, think again.  Think about how useful and in our minds “essential” Facebook has become to our everyday social networking and connections.  But what are the drawbacks to this mode of thinking?

“There could also be unintended consequences. Treating a company like a utility, for instance, can help to lock in its dominance and discourage innovation.” – Joshua Brustein

  Facebook could become less innovative.  You see, once something becomes a necessary evil, it no longer has to keep reinventing and improving itself to make customers satisfied.  So does Facebook face this dilemma?  Well, users of it may not feel that way with all of the constant updated features of Facebook.  But how much has it changed really, and what could it actually do?  Imagine a world where Facebook could be or do anything you want it to do.  What would you make it?  This ties back in to my previous post on dreaming.  We have to dream big in order to invent and create new concepts.  But as a company, if the economic drive is not there, what is your motivator to be innovative? 

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About Megan Johnson Shen

I am a social psychologist graduating with my Ph.D. from Baylor University this May and moving to NYC this summer to start a new job as a postdoctoral researcher at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in the Cancer Prevention and Control Department. I love the brain, human behavior, and anything to do with understanding them better. I love research and a good dinner party. Fine wine and cheese - I'm there. Interesting experimental data? I'll probably show for that too. View all posts by Megan Johnson Shen

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