However, I do think that its purpose has changed. The Facebook of my generation has no place for Farmville and very little to do with relationship status updates. This Facebook isn’t a site for fun, friendly interactions. In that respect, the Facebook-doomsdayers are correct: if we’re looking at Facebook as social media, it’s crawling into its digital grave.
But the people I know don’t use Facebook as social media. Rather than a decrepit version of Instagram or Snapchat, Facebook is becoming a snazzier version of LinkedIn. If Mark Zuckerberg recognizes Facebook’s potential to be a professional communication platform for Gen Z, he can revive the promise that his website once possessed.
However, I realized this in spite of, rather than due to, the way that Facebook has always presented itself to people of my age group. As a young high school student, I resisted making a Facebook account for as long as I could manage. Since I was already enamored with the superior design and photo-sharing capabilities of my Instagram app, I didn’t see why I should invest my time in another mode of social media that — as far as I could tell — wouldn’t add anything to my online experience. In my sophomore year, though, I caved for one specific reason: my school’s theatre department used a Facebook group to communicate. Without a Facebook page, I wouldn’t be able to check the daily call at night or find YouTube links to recorded versions of our performances. Facebook was the online hub of the theatre program.
Over the next few years, my Facebook usage evolved, with the category of “professional reasons” encompassing the different purposes Facebook served in my life. Before I attended the Writers Digest Conference, I joined the conference’s Facebook page, where attendees and organizers discussed the logistics of the event. When I took AP classes in high school, students made Facebook groups to share practice problems and study for tests together. Most notably, when I joined my college’s Class of 2022 Facebook page, I met a number of people who shared my academic (and non-academic) interests, and whom I’m unbelievably excited to meet in person this fall.
This past summer, Facebook became essential to my life in a way I never thought possible when I considered it to be merely social media. I was a member of Zero Hour NYC, a local chapter of the international youth climate justice organization Zero Hour. Zero Hour organized marches in more than 20 cities across the United States (and a few abroad) this July 21st, and it was the largest youth climate change protest in history. And I wholeheartedly believe that it would have been impossible without Facebook.
As Zero Hour NYC’s PR director, I managed our Facebook page, communicating with both the national team and the individual marchers interested in the New York day of protest. The march’s Facebook event was essential for making people aware that the march existed. It gave us the tools to predict the number of marchers, and to organize the march and rally with that knowledge. Every share of our GoFundMe page allowed us to raise the funds to get a permit and rent a stage. Facebook provided the platform to communicate with more established climate justice organizations; before long, these organizations were approaching us to become partners. And what media did they use to approach us? Facebook.
Whether intentionally or not, Facebook has evolved so that it is uniquely perfect for centralizing communication within large groups of people. And more often than not, this is a professional need rather than a social one. If there’s an event that will be attended by more people than can be organized in a text group chat, odds are that it’s a business gathering or a rally, not a get-together for karaoke. Young people need a platform like this, just as those in older generations do; in order to continue to attract teenagers, Facebook must recognize what we’re really using it for, and start updating the site to reflect that.
So please, Mark Zuckerberg, stop trying to push us toward Facebook Stories. We’d much rather have a spot in our profiles to upload our business cards.