Not to date myself, but when I signed up for Facebook in 2005, I had to have an email address that ended in ".edu," I got one picture and there was no political bickering because of some link I posted. In fact, posting a link was pretty ineffective in those days because there was no newsfeed on Facebook. There was no status update, there was no "going live" and people joined Facebook groups to find people with common interests.
And for a time, that's what Facebook was — a way to connect the young people with common interests.
That changed. Now, with alerts and video posts and the like, it's a way for young people to argue with old people, Democrats to argue with Republicans, men to argue with women, brother versus brother, neighbor versus neighbor and any other sorted Civil War terminology you care to insert. But Facebook executives aim to get back to their roots apparently. The company recently announced they will be prioritizing newsfeed content from friends, family members and other individual sources, rather than companies and businesses.
Sounds good on the surface.
That means I'll probably be seeing a lot more photos of my friends' dogs, babies and vacation selfies.
The bad news is the puppies and babies will ironically be taking the place of actual news in our newsfeeds — and let's be honest, a majority of us read our news online. And it's not the big guys that will be replaced. It's us local folks too. Any business really. Posts from radio stations will probably take a backseat to your sister's photo from her roommate's wedding. Heck, even posts about weekly sales at your local grocery store or an early closing notification from your child's daycare will likely play second-fiddle to the grade-school photo your childhood neighbor scrounged up to commemorate Throwback Thursday. But, if your aunt from Walla Walla, Washington, posts something from a news site she found interesting, that might pop up, since she's an individual and not the news organization that actually wrote the story. In short, news isn't going to reach nearly as many people unless we, as individuals, actually do the sharing.
Now, here's the twist. That may not be a bad thing. I think what Facebook's trying to do is admirable. Building relationships with actual people, rather than kicking off political sparring matches with strangers, is something worth doing. However, if we hope to shift our direction, we'll need to make another shift in our thinking. We may have to actually type web addresses into our browsers, instead of clicking the links we're handed after each login. We'll need to actually seek out news ourselves and not expect the news to come to us through our social media feeds. We may even need to start paying for a subscription when we're very much accustomed to just getting free online views. And trust me, even people in newsrooms are just as guilty of balking at a paywall.
We'll need to engage with local businesses. Be supportive. Be active.
Because, as the value of the individual becomes heavier and heavier in the online realm, it's going to become harder and harder for the groups serving those individuals to do their jobs. Which again, isn't necessarily bad. The choice — and to a degree the control — falls to the people. But be careful, I hear there's some fake news out there.
So, hopefully we'll still see each other on Facebook from time to time. But if not, there's other places we can meet up. The paper isn't going anywhere. See you around.