Is This The Digital Economy That We Want?

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That was the only question left to ask after Facebook released their quarterly earnings.

Here are the details from Facebook’s Q4 2018 quarterly earnings:

  • Facebook beat revenue expectations.
  • Facebook saw an increase in their user base.
  • More than 1.5 billion people used Facebook every day in December 2018 (there are about 7.7 billion people on this planet).
  • That is a 9% increase year over year.
  • 2.32 billion active monthly users. That is also up over 9% year over year.
  • This growth puts them back on track to their usual upward trend of growth.
  • While the U.S. and Europe’s growth had been flat or down in the past (more mature markets), it picked up this quarter.
  • 2.7 billion people use either Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, or Messenger each month.
  • 2 billion of those people use at least one of those four services once a day.
  • Revenue hit $16.91 billion for the quarter.
  • Profit was at $2.38 per share
  • The company’s stock jumped by over 6% following the new.

If the world is mad at Facebook, it sure has a funny way of showing it.

Humans tend to say one thing, but do another. Facebook’s quarterly earnings are a prime example of this. Because, no matter how you slice it, these numbers demonstrate one things (and one thing only): Facebook is doing better than ever. And, when Facebook does better than ever in a world where there’s daily non-stop bad news (be it privacy concerns, safety issues, scandals, third-party data breaches, fake news, bogus accounts, public outrage, government questionings… and the hits keep on coming), that’s a moment in time that should give everyone pause.

So, what gives?

Consumers are going to have to decide (and so are brands), if this is the Facebook that they want. If not, users can vote with their time spent on the platform and brands can decide by where they put their advertising dollars. By the looks of the numbers, it seems like the only people who really care about all of this news (the positive and the negative) may be the media, the government and just a handful of users. That may not be enough to change directions or dictate the digital economy as the media questions Facebook’s activity. This is, by no means, a slam dunk for Facebook to keep pounding forward (without concern), but it is an indication of Facebook’s size. A single scandal would, typically, be enough to down any organization, but Facebook seems to have its own orbit at this point.

The question still looms.

Is this the digital economy that we want? For many, Facebook is a simple and innocuous place to waste time, catch up with almost-friends and get a chuckle here and there. For others, it’s a more serious digital platform that provides work, livelihood and a flow of business opportunities. The cost of this is our personal data. We know this. We’ve known this for over a decade. It seems like this social contract is one that the mass public is fine with. Maybe we (the consumers) are changing. Maybe we don’t care about about what our data is (or where it’s going). Maybe more people really need to stop and think about it (check out the book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff for a true deep-dive into our current data state). The truth is that all of this should worry us (or, at least, make us give pause). Consumers do dictate the economy that they want… for now. If we continue to let Facebook grow – like it did this past quarter – that choice may no longer be in the hands of the consumer.

What kind of digital economy do you want?