No. But maybe—just maybe—actual conversation is.
By Craig Irons
I knew she was right. I’m a communicator by profession, and social media by then had stopped being the future. It was the current. The here and now. The difference between my “getting it” and my becoming a dinosaur, career-wise.
Considering this truth, I did what any self-respecting American male would have done on such a lazy weekend afternoon. I kept watching the game. My wife, meanwhile, who knows better, proceeded to set up my Facebook page and send friend requests to our mutual acquaintances.
That was nice of her. And once she took those first few steps for me I was off and running.
But, in the end it may turn out that she needn’t have bothered. I say this because of a new study from researchers at Princeton University that predicts Facebook will lose 80 percent of its users within the next three years.
The researchers’ methodology was to examine Facebook as if were an infectious disease, and map its usage to epidemiological models, the ones used to track the spread of disease (these models have also been used to track the spread of ideas). So, in much the same way we are warned of the severity of a winter influenza outbreak, the Princeton researchers claim that Facebook has “already reached the peak of its popularity and has entered a decline phase,” and will suffer the loss of “80 percent of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017.”
I sent the NBC News article about this study to my colleague who manages DDI’s social media. His response: “Very interesting, Craig! The only question is, where will [Facebook users] go next?”
That’s a good question. I don’t know the answer, of course. And, most likely, neither do you.
But I’d like to think I caught a glimpse the other day in a meeting where another of our colleagues was sharing the results of an internal communications survey. One of the big surprises, she said, was that people want more face-to-face communication, more department meetings, more opportunities to hear the voices and see the faces of actual people sharing pertinent information.
Is more department meetings what’s next? Well, no. But actual conversation is something more important than “what’s next.” It’s what really matters, when it comes to humans connecting with each other. Every leader knows that. Or at least the good ones do. We have research that confirms it.
So, what of my Facebook “friends,” those people I haven’t seen since high school but whom I (sometimes) enjoy hearing from in dribs and drabs of updates about their lives—their kids, their meals, their canned inspirational sayings, their far-out-on-the-fringes politics, their cats? Once we’ve all moved on from Facebook do I even really want to have actual conversations with these people?
It just so happens a few months ago, I did just that. I was back in my hometown and arranged to meet up with an old friend I had reconnected with on Facebook but hadn’t actually seen or talked to in at least 20 years. You know what? It was great catching up!
And, you know what else? It has occurred to me more than once that I remember a lot more about what we talked about that day in that 20-minute conversation than I do about anything he or I posted on Facebook before or since.
It’s worth repeating: Conversation never goes out of style.
Even though she already knows it, I feel compelled to remind my wife of that. I’ll tell her tonight. In person.
Unless there’s a game on, of course.
Craig Irons is managing editor, DDI Corporate Marketing.