Context Collapse

In Eugene Wei’s excellent analysis of TikTok, he touches on the declining relevancy of Facebook:

Think of what happened to Facebook when it’s users went from having their classmates as friends to hundreds and often thousands of people as friends, including coworkers, parents, and that random person you met at the open bar at a wedding reception and felt obligated to accept a friend request from even though their jokes didn’t seem as funny the next morning in the cold light of sobriety. Some have termed it context collapse, but by any name, it’s an annoyance everyone understands. It manifests itself in the declining visit and posting frequency on Facebook across many cohorts.

This accurately describes my own experience with Facebook. Facebook was my social media of choice back in high school and university. When I meet someone new, we’d add eachother on Facebook. First, it was my high school friends, then my university friends, then my extracurricular friends, then my family, coworkers, acquaintances, etc.

My identity has changed a lot throughout the years. I’m not the same person that my high school or early university friends knew. And posting on Facebook gave me cognitive dissonance because of the conflicting identities that these different groups had of me.

Now, as my portfolio of social media profiles increase, each one holds different context. LinkedIn is for coworkers and professional relationships. Instagram for everyday casual use. Facebook as a backup if they don’t have Instagram. And Twitter for other creatives I meet.

December 14, 2022

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