The Facebook next door

That title is not nearly as scary as it sounds (though there’s plenty to be concerned about with social media, but that’s not the subject of this blog) – it’s just a reference to a new feature from Facebook called ‘Neighborhoods’. Certain users in select locations are getting the option to connect with their neighbours and discover more about the local goings on in their vicinity. Sounds great, right?

Well, it kind of is – especially now. Not only is it a great way to stay up to date with what people are planning to do over the weekend, organising for Christmas or even doing to improve the local park, it can also be useful for requesting help. Facebook has already put out a few tools around this through its Community Help Hub, letting users easily support local businesses, donate blood, request help and more. In a time when we are disconnected, social media tools like this will help us maintain that feel of community we are needing.

So, in the interest of fun, let’s imagine what other features Facebook will come out with in future.

Let’s speculate wildly

  • Meaningful interactions
    • In 2018, Mark Zuckerberg stated he wanted people to have more ‘meaningful interactions’ on Facebook. What began as a place for college students to meet has now become a global data extraction tool. Facebook Groups and features like Neighborhoods seems to be a return to those smaller type of communities built within Facebook’s platform, and we can only imagine that people will continue to partition themselves with people they share common interests with.
  • Always on
    • Mark Zuckerberg has revealed people engage with live videos much more than regular videos – commenting 10 times as much as well. We’ve already seen Instagram expand its time limit for livestreams to 4 hours recently, but when do we get to the world of always on? Privacy would become a major issue, of course, so you’d have to ask what AR features might come into play to help mask surroundings but still allow viewers to interact with users 24/7.
  • The return of Tom
    • For those who had Myspace, they’d remember a friend called Tom that everyone automatically had. Back then, he was only a way to demonstrate the functionality of the platform, but what happens if he can talk? What if Facebook introduces a persistent AI bot that can help guide users? A better version of Clippy from Microsoft Word, but for a generation that will be used to interacting with intelligent AI? It might prove to be a fantastic way to help ease the new user journey and explain all this fantastical functionality that is coming our way.
  • New language options (Martian, Plutonian):
    • We’re going to space; it’s inevitable. While the idea of different languages according to the planets we inhabit is fun, it also does raise interesting questions about how we manage a universal, galaxy-spanning social media network that will not just connect people across oceans, but across space. Language options, video calling, use of Facebook’s increasingly dominant VR capabilities; this could all become the norm when talking to a parent on a different celestial body. Scary stuff.

Facebook is going to evolve faster than we can predict or keep up with. When you look at science fiction movies from the 80s, we could extrapolate trajectories, like video calling (Star Wars holograms), AI (2001: A Space Odyssey) and more, but how these technologies will look or manifest themselves remains to be seen; and where they will take us with social media could help bring us together as communities, like how Facebook started.

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