Recently, Facebook has seen its fair share of scrutiny, criticism, and speculations.
But not all commentary has been as controversial as the most recent one by two Princeton University graduate students who speculated Facebook’s imminent death, which they compared to the spread of an infectious disease.
In the thesis to their study, “Epidemiological Modeling of Online Social Network Dynamics,” Princeton Ph.D candidates Joshua Spechler and John Cannarella stated, “in this paper, we analyze the adoption and abandonment dynamics of online social networks by drawing analogy to the dynamics that govern the spread of infectious disease.”
What they concluded was that ideas, in this case, a fad, like a popular social media giant, follow the same growth and decline patterns of infectious disease outbreaks, spreading rapidly before eventually dying out.
In the case of Facebook, the study found that its popularity–which the authors determined using Google search query data–reached its peak in 2012 and has already begun to see a decline in users, with the potential of losing “80% of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017.”
What to make of all this
This study is certainly a brow raiser, especially considering all of other speculations that have been floating around about Facebook. But, we are still a little hesitant to find ourselves fully committed to the conclusion of this study (i.e. that Facebook will die out like a infectious disease).
Before you go ahead and delete your Facebook page, here are a few things we’d like to point out:
- In their study, the authors cited Myspace as a comparison for the trend Facebook is currently following, arguing that Myspace peaked in 2008 and fizzled out by 2011. However, there are a number of factors that they didn’t really factor into equation:
- As Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies Inc points out, Myspace limited their audience appeal from the get-go with its focus on music, making the platform’s reach very small. Comparatively, Facebook seems to have a wider audience appeal and will continue to do so if it chooses to evolve with its audience.
- And, like most fads, Myspace met its match when a bigger and better social media platform came along, that network being Facebook. Sure, Facebook could have a high rate of saturation, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that it will go into a state of decline.
- If anything, we think that Facebook’s biggest concern should be over whether or not they can grab the attention of the younger audiences before another social media platform can swoop in. This goes back to Facebook’s willingness to evolve. As we’ve mentioned before, younger audiences are leaning more towards mobile friendly apps, and if Facebook can make a more efficient leap into that area, then they have a better chance at surviving.
So, is Facebook really like an infectious disease? Frankly, we don’t think so—but we do think it has a number of obstacles in its way that could potentially cause them some trouble.
It’s always important to keep on the look out for any big changes, especially to important tools in the recruiting arsenal. Even so, we definitely recommend not being too quick to change your business plan after conclusions like those of Mr. Spechler or Mr. Canarella.