Dr Saalem Sadeque is a Marketing lecturer at CQ University in Perth who firmly believes that despite Facebook’s recent and continued failings, we aren’t going anywhere, because well – we are Facebook. And Facebook is us.
This is fine.
Dr Sadeque says Facebook is powered by its users – and has taken on a life of its own.
Yep, as suspected, even with all of that negative publicity surrounding Facebook’s data breaches, the dropout rate of Facebook users has been low.
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“The important point we need to understand is that Facebook is notionally owned by the subscribers, and not by Zuckerberg or the Facebook shareholders,” Dr Sadeque says. “I am not sure even Zuckerberg is very much aware of this.”
Dr Sadeque points out that Zuckerberg has mentioned that users have the free will to share information.
“In fact, he insisted several times that is how Facebook operates. But he did not elaborate further by stating that this free will gives the users the power to operate the company.”
“Just ask yourself,” Dr Sadeque says, “If none of the Facebook management persons existed, then will Facebook stop to exist? The answer is probably, no. Facebook is powered by the users – it has taken its own life. Facebook is unlikely to fail anytime soon.”
Dr Sadeque says the first factor in play is the creation and management of “the online self”. The basis for this argument is the idea of self-concept, specifically actual or real self and ideal self.
Actual self relates to what an individual thinks of themselves, and ideal self is how they would like to be seen by others. It is the ideal self that drives many of our consumptions, for example, buying luxury items because we want others to see us as having higher social status, Dr Sadeque says.
Dr Sadeque says points to a 2015 research study by Gil-Or, Levi-Belz and Turel who called this ‘Facebook-self’ – although it extends to other social media platforms as well.
“The researchers found that Facebook users with low self-esteem and low trait authenticity were more likely to misrepresent themselves on Facebook, which deviates from their true self.” Dr Sadeque says. “For example, one may post photos of being with people that they don’t like in real life – but want to portray to the outside world the view that they actually like the person.”
Another example Dr Sadeque gives is subscribing to a particular activist group on Facebook, which is much easier than actively joining the group offline.
Given that many of the two billion users of Facebook have constructed an ideal self in the online platform, Dr Sadeque says, it is unthinkable that they would be in a hurry to delete their accounts any time soon.
“Account deletion would mean destroying the carefully built online life which includes not only photos and likes but would also lead to breaking communication with someone who was discovered on Facebook after 20 years,” Dr Sadeque says.
“Deleting a Facebook account for many would be equivalent to going back to the stone age – one which is unthinkable for many.”
The psychological concept of Third Person Perception means that people often believe they are immune from being influenced by targeted messages on social media platforms, unlike other ‘poor gullible fools’. This means controversies like as the negative messages in the 2016 US presidential campaign didn’t end up in the widespread deletion of Facebook accounts.
“Even with data breaches, users are unlikely to abandon the use of social media platforms such as Facebook,” Mr Sadeque says.