Facebook – Quality or Quantity?
I’m not a fan of Facebook. I lost interest a while ago and stopped using it. I’m still, however, feeling the network effect as some disciples don’t respond to email anymore and instead prefer to be engaged on Facebook. I had reason to message some family members recently, so I bit the bullet and found my login.
There was a very blatant, right-column reminder about Facebook’s exploitative business model as I navigated the Site. Take a look at the range of ads and sponsored-whatevers I was served. Untargeted. Irrelevant. Horrible.
They’ve connected a billion people on the planet and this is the world they want us using?
I’m trying hard not to bash Facebook from my middle-classed platform of privilege. But when I compare their efforts to engage with relevant information, entertainment and ads with, say, Google and Amazon: I see no signs of improvement and can only feel they are failing. They publicly state higher moral aims to connect the world and this puts them firmly in the path of my criticism.
Yes, I’m worried about the signals I receive about loss of privacy on Facebook Exchange, their plans for mobile domination, their plans for capitalising on eCommerce opportunities, their inaccessible walled garden of content. And most of all, I’m worried as a parent about the huge pressure on young people to open themselves up to sharing more than they should online. Just because something is made easy doesn’t make it a good life-affirming habit.
But mostly I’m disappointed.
I’ve never – in the history of this massively successful service – been motivated to adopt a cause, fix a problem, help someone out. A billion users. A billion users completely unmoved. A billion users with the capacity to make wonders but only the motivation to share a cat photo or a food photo.
Sorry if this sounds like I’m lecturing. I just wish – very openly – that the staff and management at Facebook strive everyday to rise above the clamour for more advertising dollars and instead focus on improving the content of users’ Facebook experiences. Give us the tools to find engaging, relevant and inspiring stuff. Ignore the length of a site visit and instead get people to read something, learn something, bridge cultural divides. There is no long term value in feeding small isolated groups low-grade distractions just to peddle advertising. There is no pride in a slightly improved email and media sharing business.
The warning signs are there. It’s not difficult to imagine a world without Facebook as it currently exists. No tears will be shed; disciples will change their clothes and move on to the next distraction. The real value sits in the true network that underpins the internet, where individually addressable bits of content transcend timelines and reach the far corners of the world. Whatever window dressing sits on top to make that accessible and enticing will always be subject to whim and fashion.
If you’re a Facebook fan, next time you sit down for some quality Facebook time, please head over here and give them your ideas on how to radically transform a billion people into a connected, energised, positive force (I had to use Google to find that link!). If you can’t think of any, head over here and learn something.