With recent headlines highlighting Elon Musk’s Twitter, Meta’s ongoing troubles have escaped some of the limelight, but are significant, nonetheless. This past week, Mark Zuckerberg announced over 11,000 layoffs across his company, focusing on recruiting and business, according to a memo. The layoffs will affect some 13 percent of the tech giant’s 87,000 employees. Meta, due in large part to its optimistic investment in the metaverse, plummeted in value this past year, and workers are feeling the consequences.
While the tech industry is seeing high personnel cuts this year, Zuckerberg did not have to hire as many people as he did, and clearly depended too much on the metaverse project for profit, which looks like it won’t be nearly as lucrative as he originally hoped.
In a Vox article, Rani Molla writes that tech companies like Meta operate like makeshift religions, and so demand a lot of their employees:
In a call with workers at Meta on Wednesday, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees, “You’ve really put your heart and soul into this place,” before laying off roughly 11,000 people. Meta is joined by a number of other tech companies doing massive layoffs this year, and the trend serves as a stark reminder that your company, no matter how much you give, won’t always love you back. The layoffs in Silicon Valley come after a decades-long trend at tech companies to “live and breathe” your job and make it part of your identity. A decade ago, Uber gloated that its workers “Always be hustling,” while WeWork espoused “Rise and grind.” These companies touted their rock walls, laundry services, and exclusive chefs to show management’s largesse. But really, many of these perks could also be interpreted as just ways to keep people in the building past their normal working hours. Tech companies in some ways have filled other voids in some workers’ lives that once might have been filled by community or church.”Facebook layoffs are a reminder that your job won’t love you back – Vox (ampproject.org)
What’s next for Meta? It’s unclear. With Twitter usage at an all-time high, despite (or perhaps because of) criticism of Elon Musk, and with platforms like TikTok replacing Instagram as the go-to app for youngsters, Zuckerberg needs to direct his attention elsewhere to remain viable in the long run. He seems tired of running Facebook and Instagram, or is trying too hard to make the latter resemble TikTok, and putting his faith in the metaverse will not give him the dividends he is hoping for.
In times of massive downsizing, perhaps it is important to reevaluate the purpose of some of these massive tech companies like Meta, and as Molla writes, question if they are trying to fulfill a need they can’t meet.
A professor once asked me what the largest religion in the world was. I answered, “Christianity,” but he quickly rebutted, “The world’s largest religion is Facebook!”
Perhaps his remarks are an exaggeration, but he has a point—Facebook, and now the metaverse, seem to promise people belonging and meaning once reserved for religion and community. The real world, and real people, have become secondary to Meta’s promise to bring about a new way of human connection. But now, especially in the wake of two years of undulating pandemic lockdowns, are people waking up to Meta’s illusory promises? Based on the layoffs, it would seem so, at least in part. It will be interesting to see how Meta fares in the coming months with new sources of competition and an uncertain vision of its future as a company.