As an investor in Facebook, I was eager to listen to the Q4 earnings report to see how well the company fared during this last earnings period. As I expected, Facebook reported higher than estimated Q4 earnings ($2.21 per share vs, $1.95 per share). To an investor, these and a few of the other numbers (e.g., revenue) reported are something beautiful for our eyes to behold. We all get excited about these things.
However, as we listened to the Q4 earnings report call, we watched Facebook shares plummet almost $10 per share. Something was not computing and it became difficult for me to reconcile what I was hearing with what I was seeing. As a result, I continued to listen because I wanted to find out what I seemed to miss.
Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook CEO and Co-founder) began the call by explaining some of the reasons for some of the impending changes to the social media giant’s platform. Zuckerberg reported that there was a decrease in the amount of users online from 185 million to 184 million users. He also stated that he wanted to focus on enhancing and placing a greater emphasis upon building community and relationships by helping the users connect with their interests. In addition, Zuckerberg’s recent decisions (which drew massive criticism from several sectors) were presented with the intention of addressing concerns about censorship, safety, addictive qualities of social media, and most importantly, Russia’s use of the platform to influence the 2016 presidential election.
After listening to him, I realized that Zuckerberg’s only intention is providing a safer, more secure platform for the billions of users who frequent the website. He is well aware of the possible short-term hits Facebook could face as a result of the changes; nonetheless, at this juncture, he is adamant and more interested in addressing the concerns of quality control to build a stronger community and stronger relationships while using the platform over the long-term. Once Zuckerberg and other company executives finished explaining their stance, Facebook shares jumped $7.11 per share in after-hour market trading.
With this in mind, the purpose of this piece is not to discuss my personal interests in Facebook’s success or failures. The purpose is to discuss something we all sometimes seem to lose focus of: building and maintaining relationships. Facebook has faced much criticism, along with other social media platforms, for being instrumental in the disintegration of meaningful human interaction. This is due, in part, to the amount of time spent online. In the Q4 earnings report, Zuckerberg reported that the presence of Facebook users had decreased approximately 50 million hours during the period. 50 MILLION HOURS!
On a more personal level, I have to applaud Facebook for taking a stand and making these “value” changes. Why do I call them “value” changes? On the positive side, it is a demonstration that it is possible to remain profitable while simultaneously being a proponent of basic fundamental values. It also demonstrates that, although Facebook is a publicly traded company and is accountable to its shareholders, profitability is not more important than building and maintaining human interaction and relationships.
So after ending this call, I began thinking about what was more important to glean and apply to my life. Here are a couple of things I took away from this experience. One, I need to ensure that I wisely invest in companies that promote an agenda that aligns with my personal beliefs. This will require that I invest just as much time researching the company as I do money. Two, it is possible to connect with others on social media platforms, but I cannot allow the platform to replace human interaction. It is okay to use these media for a myriad of purposes, but not to the point of isolating myself away from others.
I understand the purpose of making the investment is to receive a return on my investment. But at the expense of sacrificing real human interconnectedness? That is an abuse of the platform, in my opinion. So my question to those who will actually read this all the way to the end is…Is Facebook wrong?
Sean Mungin, author of “The Thorn In The Flesh”