Last year, over a million people left Facebook. So Facebook has started to advertise – every billboard seems to be hollering at us to have more friends. But, the message they are sending feels a little odd to us.
This campaign seems to highlight how Facebook is a place where friends go to make meaningful connections, but – although it plays a huge role in capturing and sharing moments – we don’t think it’s a place for deep or intimate relationships. Instead, the network functions more as a practical address book – a place to pick up invitations, keep track of things, and glimpse moments of the lives of others. But who truly loves an address book?
Far from being an intimate space, the true nature of Facebook is the very fact it is public. It is where people go to share news and images, indulge in a little humble brag, and paint their lives in the most aspirational way possible. We’d love to have the ad campaign tap into something genuinely honest.
Facebook’s cultural truth is far more about closing distances – reaching out and reconnecting, glimpsing the wedding of a school friend who would never in light years have invited you. And it is about voyeurism. Let’s be honest – those moments of having a good old snoop into people’s lives, or even just their nights out, are surely what makes Facebook so addictive. The site could have gleefully owned the candid truth of our nosy behaviour.
Facebook could also use its real cultural significance in a more powerful way. Those of us who’ve been part of the network for some years have already invested our time into it, and the site has already captured great chunks of our personal history. Facebook can act brilliantly as a repository of users’ lives – highlighted by the collaboration with Timehop. Somehow, in a world that is so ephemeral, Facebook brings a very new form of permanence. And this oddly charming functional fact could have tapped into something genuinely emotional.