You may have seen a sketchy news item on the feeds this morning about facebook’s possible plan to make something approximating to a structured intervention into the millions of healthcare discussions that take place on its platform every day.
Currently, the social behemoth is very much on the outside of these discussions.
However, it would appear that facebook would like to turn this state of affairs around and become an active participant in the innumerable, vibrant interactions addressing every aspect of health in diverse languages across geographies on its platform.
If this article is correct in its (numerous, unsubstantiated) assumptions, Facebook no longer wishes to be seen as the technical facilitator of the health conversations that take place within the environment it has created, but as their moderator:
The company is exploring creating online “support communities” that would connect Facebook users suffering from various ailments. A small team is also considering new “preventative care” applications that would help people improve their lifestyles.
In recent months, the sources said, the social networking giant has been holding meetings with medical industry experts and entrepreneurs, and is setting up a research and development unit to test new health apps. Facebook is still in the idea-gathering stage, the people said.
If this is indeed facebook’s strategy, it clearly isn’t going to work.
Because trusted sources of information and support from around the world such as single-disease focused national associations and charities, providers, and self-organised patient peer groups have already occupied these spaces.
They are known.
They are credible.
They are accepted.
They are believed in.
They are depended on.
They are trusted.
Through its actions, observers may conclude that since its inception Facebook has never appeared to hold trust in high esteem, nor endeavoured to nurture a reputation as being worthy of trust.
Over the years, users’ responses to facebook’s various unannounced changes in privacy settings, timeline appearance, exposure to promoted content, data collection, and covert behavioural studies among other things have become less strident, and more restrained.
However, this should not be mistaken for users having come to accept such trust-corrosive decisions on facebook’s part.
Rather, it should be perceived as their having become resigned to them.
Trust is the currency of the Social Web: trust builds value, and trust confers value in its turn.
Tens of thousands of healthcare-focused associations, charities, providers, and peer groups have built presences on facebook over time through their reliable, responsive, relevant actions.
As such their position as trusted sources of health information on facebook seems unassailable from the platform owner’s perspective, and it is near-impossible to see how it could make an impression on the perception of its users as being a credible alternative to existing trusted sources of information and discussion on the platform the company has created and maintains.
If facebook wishes to be involved in the healthcare discussions that take place within the digital environment that it has created, it will need to find other ways of contributing to the conversation, not by attempting to impose upon or dominate existing ones.