When Facebook Live, the social network’s self-broadcasting feature, made its debut in 2015, all the indications suggested it might change beyond recognition the way we receive and share information. Narcissists wasted no time putting it to use and the conventional news media began a feeding frenzy over its content, but we have not yet seen the tool reach its full potential.
The past year saw significant proliferation in the use of Facebook Live. Italy’s populist politicians utilised live streaming on Facebook to bypass the mainstream media and foment discord in the midst of an election campaign – with such success that the idea could catch on elsewhere. Merchants large and small use it to sell merchandise, their followers able to click on images of the items and take photos of what interests them.
Thais, massively attached to Facebook, adore testing new features, and more and more independent retailers are using Facebook Live to sell everything from cosmetics to “clean” (healthy) food. Thai fans of Manchester United used the tool a couple of weeks ago when Jose Mourinho was sacked as the team’s manager, and they garnered a remarkable number of views by breaking news and offering in-depth analyses. In fact, they did such a thorough job of “covering” the story that media academics began discussing whether journalism studies should emphasise that the best reporters are those focusing on their own greatest passions.
Countless important interviews have been conducted via Facebook Live, further indicating the growing acceptance of the feature’s utility and impact. And the mainstream media are not shy about picking up content generated from Facebook Live. The mainstream media and social media are constantly reacting to each other’s content, but viewers are taking sides. In one telltale comment, a Thai politician recently said he preferred a short, viral clip of his statements to be circulating online rather than a lengthy TV interview being aired.
Of course the live and video-sharing functions have resulted in some heinous broadcasts, both in Thailand and abroad.
Unnecessarily gory depictions of crimes, suicides and self-inflicted injuries have come via Facebook Live, despite outcries and efforts to curb the practice. There will be no stopping this sort of personal broadcasting, however. Technology is making sure of that. What the future holds cannot be disputed.
Thanks to constantly improving Internet transmission, live streaming is getting smoother and more watchable. Video screens have undergone an amazing evolution in terms of size and clarity. Soon, any pane of glass in your vicinity could serve as a broadcast display screen. Count on conventional television, despite its long history and immense investments made, to continue losing its audience and market share. The nature of broadcasting stardom will never be the same again.
The new technology’s greatest promise rests in giving society more educational opportunities. For all the money and politics associated with revolutionary aspects of the social media, Facebook Live does possess truly noble potential. The ways children can be taught through the new medium seem limitless. Geographical distance need never again be an obstacle to schooling. A future in which Facebook Live – or some similar tool – democratises education now seems within reach. Technology has opened the door. It’s now a simple question of when we walk through it.