Do you still need a Facebook account today?

For years, Facebook has been criticized on and off, and its active user base has been declining in Germany. The hype from earlier times no longer exists. But do people still need a Facebook account today?

According to Facebook, around 32 million people in Germany have an account with the social network. That makes it the most widespread social media platform in this country after WhatsApp, which also belongs to the company. But fake news and data protection scandals have shaken the confidence of many users in the platform.

In addition, other networks such as Instagram, also a Facebook subsidiary, or Tiktok are now more fascinating for young users. The Facebook user base is getting older and older. Active use is also declining, and many users rarely log on to the platform, according to media trainer Teja Adams.

Is Facebook still worth it today?

Why should people still log on to Facebook today, though? If it were up to the company itself, people would of course absolutely need an account to be connected with family and friends, says media journalist Daniel Fiene. “However, for most users Facebook doesn’t even have this task anymore.”

Most people now post elsewhere, whether in the family WhatsApp group or on Instagram, he said. Nevertheless, Facebook is still interesting, he said: “Many users use the platform as a contact management tool and to find out about events.”

In this respect, the network benefits from its large user base in Germany, which Teja Adams says is Facebook’s biggest advantage over other networks. The platform is aimed at practically all groups of users. For Adams, that’s why “Facebook is still the network where you have the greatest chance of meeting friends and acquaintances.”

Groups are Facebook’s strength

Another reason that speaks in favor of Facebook is the many possibilities that the platform offers, says Adams. “Compared to other networks, Facebook offers the largest range of functions. Users can chat, post on the wall, or join groups and communicate, for example.”

A classic and much-used area, he says, is events. Here, private individuals and organizations can create events, signal participation or interest in an event. “Users can see which of their friends are attending and exchange information about the event,” says Adams.

In addition, he said, groups in particular remain very interesting. “For every topic, no matter how specific, you can find the right group on Facebook,” Adams said. The groups also demonstrate another strength of Facebook, he said, namely the high level of local differentiation. “It’s not only possible to find groups related to your own interests, but also still in your own local area.”

The problems of the network

In recent years, Facebook has also added more and more basic functions to the platform, such as gaming, live videos, and the Marketplace. The latter functions similarly to Ebay classifieds. Overall, he said, there are a variety of different functions with which Facebook is trying to appeal to different target groups. “But there is no longer any function that assures Facebook an absolutely unique selling proposition, or that is totally through the roof,” Adams limits.

Problems are also evident in other areas. Some central functions, such as the newsfeed, no longer work well, Adams says. The actual heart of Facebook is overloaded, he says, and posts from friends are often overlaid by other contributions. The newsfeed is therefore no longer attractive for many people.

“Facebook won’t die so quickly, though,” Adams is certain. The network is simply too big worldwide and too deeply anchored in everyday life and work processes, he says. Adams also believes that the user base will remain stable. Even if younger new users do not join, there are still potential new user groups among older people.

And Facebook is also trying to gain a foothold in the trending audio space. Announced, for example, are Soundbites, a new format for short, creative audio content, as well as live audio rooms.

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Moving away from dark user experience

In the past, however, the network has also been repeatedly criticized for opaque default settings and misleading design in user guidance. “Facebook’s design should empower users more to make good decisions,” says Matthias C. Kettemann of the Leibniz Institute for Media Research in Hamburg.

Media researcher Kettemann is particularly critical of so-called dark patterns. This is the name given to user guidance that is intended to tempt users to disclose private data or to spend more time on the platform than they would actually like.

In recent years, however, the platform has also made improvements due to legal initiatives such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). “While privacy settings on Facebook used to be low to begin with, they are now set higher by default,” Kettemann says.