Facebook: Too Unoriginal?

Lately I’ve noticed a significant change in what I see on my Facebook newsfeed. Rather than seeing mostly pictures and statuses posted by my friends, I am now overwhelmed by shared videos that automatically start playing as I scroll as well as by silly posts that my friends are tagging each other in.

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It turns out that this is a trend occurring on Facebook – personal/original sharing has dropped by 21 percent as of mid-2015. The overall level of sharing has remained fairly steady as users are now posting more news and information from other websites. Nonetheless people are sharing less and less of the vital information that Facebook needs and this could become an issue.

Facebook relies on its users posting and sharing personal content such as vacation pictures and engagement announcements in order to draw in its users. If the content being shared on Facebook is not original, or can be found on other forms of social media, its users will be less inclined to check in. This does not pose an immediate threat, however, if the trend continues Facebook could face serious problems.

Internally, Facebook employees refer to what is happening as “content collapse.” People have created large networks for themselves on Facebook and these often connect them to people who they may not be very close with in real life anymore. Users are also increasingly aware that anything that they post will inevitably be shared to people beyond their close circle of friends, even if they limit their intended audience in their privacy settings. Facebook users very well may want to share more personal information, but only with a more intimate group.

Facebook has started several initiatives in order to try and combat this issue.

On This Day

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First, they rolled out “On This Day.” This nostalgia mining feature functions similar to Timehop and allows users to see things they shared and photos they were tagged in on Facebook on that same day a certain number of years ago. Only the user can see their On This Day content unless they choose to share it with their Facebook friends. Facebook has made it so that this does not remind users of bad memories, so it is more likely that people will want to relive and share these memories with their old and new friends. I certainly have seen this feature shared on my newsfeed and I have a feeling that it will only become more and more successful at incentivizing people to share original content as time goes on because users will have an increasing amount of forgotten and treasured memories to share.

Birthday Reminder Banners

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Another move that Facebook made was rolling out the banner at the top of people’s newsfeed reminding them of their friends’ birthdays. This friendly reminder makes it harder to forget to post a customary birthday wish on your friend’s timeline. Facebook uses your previous digital interactions in order to determine who your “top friends” are so that this reminder only shows up for people who are important to you. Personally, I don’t think that this feature has caused me to post more on Facebook. If for some reason I did forget one of my good friend’s birthdays and then saw the Facebook reminder, I then took the time to text them. The culture of posting on everyone’s wall for their birthdays has certainly diminished, and if I do post the traditional happy birthday message, its for people who I’m not very close with and would not be considered one of my “top friends” in the eyes of Facebook.

Live Video-Broadcasting

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Most recently, Facebook debuted its live video-broadcasting feature. Perhaps this will be the answer – incentivizing users to share their personal information with the novelty of live video as opposed to trying to get users to share text or photos. I have not tested this feature out and I don’t think I will. Hopefully for Facebook my opinion does not represent the thoughts of most users.

What do you think? Have you found yourself posting more original Facebook content because of these three initiatives? What would make you post more?

11 comments

  1. Great article! I definitely agree with you a lot on all of these topics. I feel as if people are starting to recognize that sharing on Facebook has decreased, and this is just perpetuating the effect. Even if someone would have wanted to post something, they may realize that other people hardly ever post, and then will be less inclined to post. Personally, I have seen some great memories with the “On This Day” feature. However, instead of sharing it to Facebook, I usually screenshot it and then text it to my friend with whom I shared the memory! The only thing I ever post on FB is pictures. You bring up a great point about the birthday notifications regarding close vs. not close friends. Although I used to post happy birthday messages on FB, now, if I don’t have a person’s phone number to text them, then I usually don’t consider myself good enough friends to write on their FB wall. Facebook should have considered this before rolling out this feature. I agree that this may become a big problem for FB, and I honestly don’t know what would make me post more. Great insights!

  2. I agree with Caroline above; I am much more likely to screenshot one of the “On This Day” posts than to share it on Facebook. I also never post on people’s birthdays anymore. I find myself getting tagged in photos many more times than posting my own pictures. When I post pictures it’s usually random ones from over the past six months, so I suppose Facebook is somewhat okay with that. My mom still loves checking in to restaurants when we’re out at dinner so at least they’re getting some data of mine from that. All in all, they might have to make drastic changes if they want to greatly increase original content sharing, and I don’t have an suggestions for them on how to do that. Nice post overall.

  3. Great post, Ashley! I think this topic is super interesting and you hit on a lot of really strong insights about Facebook’s response to the content collapse problem. I’m definitely on the same page as you in terms of never having actually used any of these features. I think appealing to people’s nostalgia with On This Day is very smart, but I’m definitely with Caroline and Jak in that I would screenshot and share privately rather than share with the masses via Facebook. I think the insight that users have created vast networks that include a lot of people they aren’t very close to anymore is undoubtedly the root of the problem. As we’ve indicated through our own behaviors, resurfaced old content and birthday reminders do prompt us to share, but typically through more private channels. Being able to classify or categorize your network so that it’s not just an archive of everyone you knew at one point could be a solution, but the challenge of successfully implementing something like that sounds like a nightmare.

  4. Awesome post, I had never really considered that the amount of personal content posted on Facebook has actually diminished. While the amount of content I personally post has definitely diminished, I never realized it was a widespread problem. I really enjoyed all of the features you listed that Facebook has released to promote more content posting. It’s clear all of these features were designed just to keep people on the site. I don’t think any of them really make the experience better, they’re just there to keep you addicted.

  5. You made me think of the main reason I don’t post content anymore on my facebook. I’m really sensitive on what people sees about me. And we reached a point where you don’t only have your friends on your network. You also have your aunt that tells everything to everyone, that high school boy that you really didn’t get on well. Your old boss. And maybe even your grandma that uses facebook to play candy crush and spy on the rest of their friends content. As we commented in class, facebook gave us the tool to stalk freely and without any consequence. If you are aware that you can be spied by a broad amount of people. You will definitely cut down on what you post. I feel that is why those kind of content is migrating to other platforms as snapchat, where you can post or send pictures and videos to a smaller circle of controlled users.

  6. I definitely think that Facebook has become a place for more shareable content vs. original content, and Facebook has made a solid effort to combat that. Whether it’s working, I’m not sure. The “On This Day” feature is probably the most successful of their attempts (since nostalgia is irresistible), but personally, it doesn’t prompt me to post. The Rashanna on Facebook five years ago is way different from me today, and much more embarrassing. There are many a post from my freshman year of high school that should stay in the past, and that I don’t necessarily want to share with the public now. I’m more likely, like Jak and Caroline said above, to screenshot and share it privately. The birthday banner hardly gets a second glance from me, and on my newsfeed, live videos are used by people who want to show off their weed. With all their efforts, FB gets an A for effort, and (according to my newsfeed & opinion) a C for effect.

  7. They definitely need to run the balance between person and mainstream content, because we want both. I suspect they are testing the heck out of this and are adjusting the amount and type of content they serve up to keep people coming back.

  8. Good post. I think you’re right, any of these social media platforms are really only as good as the content shared on them. If you don’t have a good content stream, you will move on. This is just like the conversation about linkedin in class, people didn’t feel like their streams had enough valuable content so they didn’t use it as much. I think it also depend on the type of crowd you interact with as to what platform they use more and therefore what platform you use more.

  9. I think it comes down to us evolving how we view social sharing. At first, my friends shared every mundane fact about their lives. But then privacy concerns became a thing and we shared less through social. I think I made a comment in class the other week, but I’ve noticed a lot of my friends HAVE been posting more personal things. With that said, a lot of my friends are at the age of those big life milestones – engagements, weddings, babies, graduate degrees – and those people post a ton. The rest are posting more curated content…funny articles from Buzzfeed, something about Bernie Sanders. It’s this weird balance of letting people in…but not too much…while still trying to get likes and engagement. Facebook’s advancements are really interesting ways to see if there are other ways we’re willing to share if we’re not going to do the “I’m eating a sandwich” post anymore.

  10. Definitely seems like the pendulum is due to swing back towards neutral (away from the non-personal end of the spectrum). The three initiatives mentioned actually come off as non-original content still at their core though, no? Because its being created in mass numbers (obligatory birthday posts) or from the past (this day posts..) it isn’t that NEW content people seem to enjoy most

  11. It’s interesting to look at these FB initiatives as part of an effort to get people to post more. It’s hard to gauge how much every single one of your friends posts because of the algorithm. I feel like now my newsfeed is culled down to 6 or 7 friends posting. I wonder if that is a result of the algorithm or indicative of a general shortage of my other friends posting? Nice post!

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