What is Facebook? A cool fad, a problematic FAD, or a fundamental Internet utility? 3 theories inspected

Many people hate Facebook. Many people use Facebook.

This is normal. But, what isn’t, perhaps, is the massive overlap between these two categories—a strangely high amount of people who hate it still choose to use it.

But is it really by choice?

During the very same week that the social networking giant achieved the milestone of 500,000,000 active users (yes, you’re reading that correctly), the site was also found to be one of the least popular private-sector companies in the U.S. by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. This contradiction needs to lay off the Doritos – it’s getting huge.

After sifting through myriad analysts grasping for analogies as to why Facebook is so popular, yet so hated, I’ve narrowed the Facebook Phenomenon it down to three major theories.


The cool fad: It’s fun till it fades

Mark Zuckerberg’s empire is fun, for now, but it won’t last. Its coolness will either fade, or a range of innovative competitors will push Facebook into extinction, a la Nexopia and MySpace. 

The site thrives currently because of it’s pop culture trendiness and because simply everyone is using it. But people follow people, and it may only take a few particularly influential trend setters to shift masses of the Facebook population to another platform. But as it stands now, would-be competitors are too intimidated to try and wrangle a worthy portion of Facebook’s half-billion population.

Theory summary: Everybody wants to feel “in the loop,” and Facebook is a very popular loop. For now.

The problematic FAD: When chatting to your friends qualifies as addiction

While there is a widespread, mostly parodic “Facebook Addiction Disorder,” sweeping the ‘net for about two years now, real addictions aren’t humorous—and Facebook does create real addictions. This theory suggests that instead of the site being the trendy fad that everyone is buying into today and will abandon on a whim tomorrow, as mentioned above, that facebook has gained popularity in a manner similar to Coca Cola or cigarettes: it’s highly addictive, enough so that many active users cannot imagine their lives without the social networking utilities that the site offers.

Theory summary: Facebook is the cigarette of the internet. Bad for the health, but too addictive for most to let go.

Fundamental internet utility: Where social networking is a household necessity

Nobody wants to file their taxes or pay their hydro bill. But they’re necessary elements to managing your household, and thus they must be done. Has it, or will it, become so with Facebook—is keeping in e-touch with your buddies essential to the societal makeup of today’s digitalized world? This third theory suggests that Facebook isn’t a fad, but it also isn’t a FAD. Rather, it’s simply a staple in the typical North American household. 

Online-based social networking, in this theory, is expected by friends and family. It’s expected and typical that one could create an Event page, for example, and that all of their real life invitees will be on Facebook to respond. It’s expected people will keep up to date with one another via status updates and news feeds. And for this new-standard level of internet semi-socialization, Facebook thus becomes what you might label a “fundamental household activity.” You input the necessary time into it—whether you want to or not—because, like filing taxes, paying bills, and completing chores, it’s an important task to perform in order to remain socially relevant.

Theory summary: Facebook is so useful to so many people that it’s a necessary staple in society.

What do you believe Facebook is?