Will Facebook’s name change be the makeover it needs to recover its reputation?
Social media conglomerate Facebook will be changing its name, citing a shift in focus to the “metaverse” as the motivation. Critics of Facebook cite the company’s less-than-stellar reputation as the primary reason for the change. When dealing with a company as large as Facebook, would a change in name ever rehabilitate a ruined reputation?
I find it rather striking that the most we can get out of Facebook on this change in direction is that they will be shifting focus to the “metaverse.”
I’m not shy to admit that I have no clue what that means, because I’m quite sure that my ignorance is shared by many employees of the tech giant.
Some so-called experts have lauded the new focus, claiming that the move is intelligent because people don’t understand the term “metaverse.”
It is therefore seen as exciting and new. I don’t buy that claim. Making up words or borrowing them from science fiction comes off as a dishonest marketing ploy, not an affirmation of goodwill.
At its heart, the Facebook name change is a way to escape scrutiny. Facebook carries with it a tarnished reputation. Its involvement in the 2016 Presidential Election in the United States, further political polarization of its user base, privacy violations and knowledge that its own platform is harming the mental health of teenagers all come to mind when someone mentions Facebook.
Whether or not you buy any or all of those claims as absolute truths is irrelevant because they have damaged Facebook’s reputation regardless.
The difference between the reputation of Facebook past and present is that critics now view the platform as harmful rather than simply annoying.
There was a time when Facebook was viewed as a necessary annoyance. Sure, it made our blood pressure soar, but it provided connection to people we could not see in our day-to-day lives.
But with a plethora of other social media options and the technology to share memories without posting them socially, Facebook took a new form. Its algorithm-driven experience created political polarization as it shielded users from views with which they disagreed. This pivot, shown most plainly during the 2016 Presidential Election, has been an irreversible trend that has no end in sight.No “metaverse” talk will stop it.
Just as cigarette companies had to change their names to escape bad publicity, Facebook is doing the same. The problem with changing a name is that it doesn’t change what you’re selling. Cigarette manufacturers continue to make the same product. It has the same ingredients. It has the same health consequences. So why should we think of tech companies as any different? The newly named company will continue to sell an addictive form of social media. It will continue to polarize users. It will continue to negatively affect the mental health of teenagers. Call the company whatever you want, but you’re not a new entity if you’re heading in the same direction under an alias.
Facebook will announce its new name at its annual conference on Oct. 28. I look forward to seeing Facebook, in its new incarnation, focused on the “metaverse”- whatever the hell that means.