Is Facebook Replacing Older Ways?

by James Wallace Harris, Tuesday, July 19, 2017

A few years ago an older version of our web site devoted to the Classics of Science Fiction would get hundreds of hits a day, some days going over a thousand. Now it’s lucky to get two dozen. Searching Google for “classics of science fiction” usually places the site on the first page of returns, which would suggest it’s still valid.

Why the decline in hits? It’s doubtful that science fiction has fallen out of favor. I’ve been wondering if how people use the internet has changed. I know our site is boring and statistical but it did have some fans. Now it doesn’t. I’m wondering if folks have stopped using the web in the same way they used it before. Are most people going to big sites and ignoring the small sites?

Or is everyone hanging out on Facebook instead?


Pages and groups devoted to science fiction on Facebook often have thousands of followers. Are people spending more time socializing on Facebook than surfing the web? Facebook has over 2 billion members. Many of my friends and family use Facebook daily. Has Facebook reached a critical mass of users meaning it can’t be ignored?

I know many people who loathe Facebook. As online forums and Yahoo! Groups die from inactivity will those holdouts be forced to become a Facebook pod person?

The internet existed for years before the World Wide Web. It wasn’t until the invention of the web browser that people began surfing the internet purely for entertainment. Users jumped from link to link, going wherever inspiration led them to click.

Then came search engines. Instead of surfing, you keyword searched. Of course, search results could take you to unknown and surprising places.

The way we use the internet has changed again with smartphone apps. Whereas before I’d start with Google, I now tap Wikipedia, IMDB or other icons instead. There are times when I have to fall back to Google, but it’s usually when I’m doing writing research.

For years my online socializing happened on blogs, Yahoo! Groups, or forums at web sites. All those virtual meeting places are becoming depopulated. After the internet became universal I assumed it would always be the same. Now I’m thinking the underlying technology will always be there, but how we use it will constantly mutate.

Has Facebook become an alternative to web surfing, blogging, home pages, personal web sites, etc? Even more, is Facebook replacing family get-togethers, scrapbooks, printed photos, letters, postcards, greeting cards, telephone calls, and email? Many people now prefer texting to a phone call because it is less time-consuming. Has Facebook become the quick replacement for visiting online friends, or even some real life friends?




5 thoughts on “Is Facebook Replacing Older Ways?”

    1. A few years ago all the young people in our families left Facebook. I assume they didn’t want to be observed by the adults. But now they are all back. And people I used to know who had no interest in Facebook are now on sometimes. I think it’s getting hard to ignore.

  1. The trouble with Facebook is the same as with other centralized and monopolistic entities, especially those whose primary motivation is profit rather than content or function. Though people may think of them as a gateway or gathering place, they can just as easily be a bottleneck or dead end, a classic honeypot trap. Once competing sites are diminished or eliminated, what happens when Facebook decides to ban or favor a particular person, viewpoint, or topic? In theory one can always create an alternative, but in practice the virtual environment created by near monopolies resembles a field that has been monoculture farmed, sucking out the nutrients required for any alternative crop to flourish.

    As it happens, I’m currently in mourning for the IMDB discussion forums (Internet Movie Data Base) which were recently shut down by the proprietors of the site. There are still user reviews, sometimes dozens of them for popular movies, but after only a handful of short form reviews they necessarily start seeming repetitious. While forum posts were generally at least 50% garbage, they provided an arena in which to discuss specific plot points, characters, gossip, etc., in a way that non-interactive reviews just can’t. However, the viability of the forums was largely due to the status of IMDB as a central repository of movie information. The case illustrates both the advantages and dangers of internet monoculture.

    1. PJ, I think there are lots of dangers in Facebook becoming a social media monopoly, and you bring up some good points. I didn’t know about the IMDB forums, but it fits in a pattern I’ve been seeing where forums are dying off or being shut down. I’ve been trying to recreate some forum like discussions on a few Facebook groups I’ve joined. It’s been fun, but people tend to keep comments short, so it’s hard to talk seriously about anything.

      I wrote more about Facebook taking over at an essay at Book Riot:

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