At Facebook, mere “sharing” is getting old. Finding deeper meaning in online communities is the next big thing. CEO Mark Zuckerberg [pictured here] is no longer satisfied with helping people share baby pictures and live video — or fake news and hate symbols — via the social network he created. So the Facebook founder wants to bring more meaning to its nearly 2 billion users by nudging them into online groups that bring together people with common passions, problems and ambitions.
Much like the creation of Facebook itself — the largest social-engineering project in history — that shift could have broad and unanticipated consequences. Facebook will apply the same powerful computer algorithms that made its service irresistible to so many people to the task of nudging users toward groups they’ll find equally appealing.
That would also have the effect of encouraging people to spend more time on Facebook, which could boost the company’s profits. While the company doesn’t currently place ads in its groups, it “can’t speak to future plans,” Alex Deve, the product director for Facebook Groups, said in a statement.
Advertising is virtually Facebook’s only source of revenue; it brought in almost $27 billion dollars in 2016, 57 percent more than the previous year.
The Search for Meaning
The shift comes as Facebook continues to grapple with the darker side of connecting the world, from terrorist recruitment to videos of murder and suicides to propaganda intended to disrupt elections around the world. For Zuckerberg, using his social network to “build community” and “bring the world closer together” — two phrases from Facebook’s newly updated mission statement — is a big part of the answer.
“When you think of the social structure of the world, we are probably one of the larger institutions that can help empower people to build communities,” Zuckerberg said in a…