Facebook in Nepal: The digital future or the end of an era?

The world’s biggest social media site, Facebook, lost a record number of users this past year, which led to a loss of almost $240 billion. For the first time in its history since it started in 2004, it lost a million daily users, as the company states. The company blamed the decline on the automatic transfer restrictions of user data to advertisers, announced by Apple and Google. These limits alone cost the social site $10 billion in 2021.

Despite being widely accessible for more than 15 years, the site’s growth momentum is slowing, even declining in some respects. The company’s financial troubles are partly the result of its user base getting older and younger users shifting to video-sharing platforms such as TikTok. Despite its current financial troubles, Facebook is still the world’s largest social network with over 2 billion monthly users.

However, it is highly unlikely that Facebook can maintain its total dominance over social networking, with prominent competitors such as Tiktok, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, WeChat and hundreds more social media companies clamouring for our attention. This appears true in Nepal’s context also.

Facebook and Nepal

As of January 2022, there were 13.7 million internet users in Nepal, which has increased to 11.51 million. Data published in Meta’s advertising resources indicate that Facebook had 12.30 million users in Nepal in early 2022. It continues to grow at a slower pace compared to other social media such as TikTok or YouTube in Nepal in recent years. According to Datareportal, 90% of people in Nepal use Facebook or the internet on mobile phones only.

facebook in phone
Photo: Pexels/ Brett Jordan

Merely, some five years down the line, Facebook was synonymous with the internet in Nepal. During the pre-Covid time, YouTube became quite popular. Today, post-Covid, TikTok has been breaking all records. Instead of scrolling down stories or posts on Facebook, users are busy watching or creating videos on platforms like TikTok.

According to the Nepal Telecommunications Authority’s most recent report, 27.76 million individuals in Nepal have access to the internet. Today, we tend to believe everything posted on social media to be true, without verifying it. Hence, the government should make proper laws, create awareness and increase digital literacy in the country so that people can make the best use of it and use it responsibly.

The popularity of the social media giant

The most desired reason for people to use Facebook is to keep in contact with their friends and family. As it is free of charge, it has become more helpful than emails and telephones in recent times. It has normalised the idea of globalisation and one can communicate and create networks in every part of the world with the use of the internet and social media.

Other than that, Facebook has become resourceful to connect with like-minded people through various Facebook group pages. This eventually helped to connect and get informed about various sectors where experts are also already there. Likewise, if one wants to bring people together for some change, it has become handy for such a group of people. This and more have made it evident that the future is all about digital presence and the world is getting digitalised day by day.

Meanwhile, Facebook rebranding its company name as Meta has sparked a completely new industry. Many investors and businesses are keen to grasp this opportunity, to avoid missing the next big thing. Yet, it will not be wrong to say that Facebook’s pivot to a Metaverse will take years to implement and create.

The possible downfall of Facebook

cyber security

While the internet has benefitted us in a variety of ways, it has also ruined the lives of many people, though this technology is a boon if used wisely. According to the Nepal Police Cyber Bureau report for the fiscal year 2020/21, a total of 3,906 complaints were filed by social media users. That included 2,003 cases by women, 1,471 by men and 224 by others and people who did not identify their gender. Similarly, 53 cases were related to Facebook, two each related to YouTube and Instagram, and nine cases related to TikTok.

Facebook has already been successful in profoundly transforming how we understand ourselves in the digital age in a way that cannot be undone. But, no one knows the future! The company could collapse tomorrow, and we would still have to resolve questions social media has raised about how we want to live and prosper together in a digital world. One of the main reasons for Facebook to collapse could be the loss of trust from its users. Facebook monetised social media and destroyed it in the process.

As of late, the most essential issue is managing the enormous power of personal data. Social media have shown just how financially valuable personal data can be. Today, Facebook’s mainstream competitors depend on the same principles of targeted advertising. Nowadays, the world is in our hands. Every business is becoming digital. This has led user behaviour to be tracked and user data becoming more valuable.

Moreover, other social networks are experimenting to create more privacy and security. Diaspora keeps data in multiple servers throughout the world, which lets users select hosting services in countries they believe have strong personal data protection. Minds is a decentralised blockchain-based network and Vero does not have ads.

Facebook built a digital world where the data produced through our personal behaviour is the chief engine of corporate growth. Lately, we are still figuring out how to ensure that online spaces are civil, peaceful and safe—meaning free from hate speech.

Experiments by rival companies respecting user privacy will solve some problems and undoubtedly reveal others. Nevertheless, they all are built on the foundation that Facebook laid: a world constantly seeking digital connection at a poorly understood future price!

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