Excuse me for being pedantic in picking a throwaway line from a longer discussion - but with the implied huge changes in Facebook user behaviour, I feel the need to jump to the defence of text.
According to Nicola Mendelsohn, who runs Facebook’s operations in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, the social network “will be definitely mobile, it will be probably all video.” This statement, albeit a small one at a conference in London, has got analysts talking about the ever-changing face of social media.
“The best way to tell stories in this world, where so much information is coming at us, actually is video,” Mendelsohn commented. “It conveys so much more information in a much quicker period. So actually the trend helps us to digest much more information.”
This is a prediction grounded in truth, but make no mistake about it – Nicola has got this one wrong.
The truth is that social is progressively becoming more and more video-centric. You just have to look at Facebook’s live video platform taking off, the ratio between Snapchat photos and videos is quickly favouring the latter and Twitter reorganising its core app to push Periscope.
Video is big, but text isn’t dead… Text is evolving.
The humble arrangement of words, spaces and punctuation feel perceptively old – I get that. But rather than the visual signifiers of a picture, text literally tells a story that can be easily searched and processed by both man and machine. You could do anything from writing a book to creating code that is advancing all of these innovations in video.
That’s right… From top to bottom, videos on social media will not exist without the technological advancements of text. And no, I’m not just talking about the programming that goes into the player itself, because that would be a cheap technicality.
Most recently, Facebook has themselves confirmed the majority of their videos are played silently as a user scrolls through their feed – meaning the story-making combination of moving picture and sound is broken. Now…what do they use instead? TEXT! Even the ridiculous viral videos you see people watching use words to engage the user.
The lexicon has changed over time, and I will look back on my Facebook posts from 2008 and breathe a sign of regret for even using shortened words like “m8” or “gr8,” but text evolves with us and it’s not going anywhere.
So where did Nicola’s confusion come from?
It’s an easy one to decipher really – Facebook has a bit of a mixed identity. They call it a communication tool, but it’s also a media content consumption tool… Probably even more so the latter. The way people consume content does not and will not dictate how people communicate to one another.
Reading and writing is so ingrained into human life that it will never disappear – not even from Facebook – in favour of video. Unless the team over there have a radical plan to turn FB exclusively into a content consumption network, I wouldn’t worry about missing out on those random sassy statuses from your friends… Or those wonderfully indirect call outs of other people reserved for only the most narcissistic of folks.
I get it. We’re all scared in the wake of the tragedy in Westminster last Wednesday. Khalid Masood’s actions in committing this atrocity are truly reprehensible. But digital communication is not at fault, and adding an Orwellian level of surveillance is not the answer.
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I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.