Facebook is turning away from its roots in order to compete with TikTok. Once the social media platform was a place to connect with friends and family, but Meta has decided it’s not what users want.
Now users will be met with a feed of videos and pictures that users might like, determined by an algorithm. As a result, you’re more likely to see pet videos and recipes from cooking influencers than posts from your embarrassing aunt or beloved nanna.
Meta announced the significant changes to Facebook and Instagram last week: “Home” will now be the main tab when you open Facebook. In its announcement, the company described the new main screen as a “discovery engine” for “fresh, entertaining content.”
As part of the update, any video you share publicly on Instagram that is shorter than 15 minutes will now automatically become a reel and “may be recommended.”
Basically, if TikTok was never your thing, Meta intends to drag you kicking and screaming into an experience of endless scrolling through videos you may or may not be interested in. If you’re a huge TikTok fan, this will probably be a blessing for you as you get two bites at the cherry.
If you want to see what your friends or followers are up to, you’ll have to go to another tab called “Feeds,” which won’t be the default home screen.
Meta’s move to compete with TikTok clearly values algorithm-based engagement or consumption over meaningful connections. This comes at a time when tech and entertainment companies are all battling for consumers’ attention, whether on social media platforms or streaming services.
It’s a significant departure from what Facebook sought to accomplish initially, which was to connect users with friends and family in an online social setting. Facebook’s original “News Feed” was merely a page of friends’ status updates when it launched in 2006.
This is not Facebook’s first algorithm-driven move: In 2009, an algorithm started dictating what users saw in their feeds, prioritising more interesting life updates from family, friends and people users followed.
A 2018 update prioritised posts meant to spark discussions and meaningful interactions between people. And so began the echo chambers of politics and extremism that we have today.
Can a new start-up give us a photo-sharing app?
This latest update could mark the end of social networking as we know it as Meta drags us into a world of viral videos whether we like it or not. Of course, a savvy start-up could seize the opportunity to give the people what they want: an Instagram-style photo-sharing app where you can post pictures and a social network platform where you can catch up with your grandma and show her pictures of her grandbabies without being forced down a rabbit hole of videos you don’t want to watch.
It looks like it might be time to delete Instagram and Facebook.