Monday, July 27, 2015

The Decline of Facebook

Since I'm not a big fan of Facebook, maybe it's a little bit of schadenfreude when I see the signs of a major breakdown at the social media giant. I do like Facebook when photos of my grandkids are posted, but I don't consider loading the site a rewarding experience. There are two primary things that turn me off and I suspect that eventually they will be major causes for the decline of the behemoth.

Too Much Unrelated Stuff

I'm not sure why most people go to Facebook, but for me it has been a way to see what my family and friends are up to. I especially like to see pictures of my grandkids. However, lately Facebook is cluttered with tons of miscellaneous posts which detract from the experience. Users find something they like on Pinterest, or some other third party service, and post it as something they like. In and of themselves these postings are not necessarily a bad thing, but it would be nice if it were done sparingly. I notice that certain people tend to post everything they come across on the Internet. I find myself paging through reams of unrelated material just to catch a couple of photos of the people I care about. In the past, this was not the case.

I see that many people use Facebook as a place to post all their personal opinions, although they don't actually express those ideas themselves. They find sites which provide material that they ardently agree with and post one article (or clever poster image) after another, after another, after another … I can tolerate an opinion or two, but the repetition of reposting the same ideological themes over and over again becomes tedious and boring–even if I happen to agree with the sentiment. I've had to block the posts from friends (who I agree with politically) because the sheer number of posts was just too overwhelming. Unfortunately, when I do block their postings, I no longer see their personal items which I might find interesting.

To make matters worse Facebook now adds "Suggested Posts" to the page in hopes that I will contribute even more to the clutter. I know that there is money in these tidbits for Facebook, but for me they are Spam. I suspect that there are many people who feel the same way.

Maybe I'm an outlier, but this overwhelming addition of minutiae seems to be killing the Facebook brand. When the site becomes an ordeal rather than an experience which actually connects people with friends and family, it becomes a duty rather than enjoyment. I mostly log onto Facebook when my wife, who doesn't use computers, asks me if anyone has posted any pictures. Even then it is impersonal because I know that the images are meant for the entire known universe and I'm merely a bystander.

I much prefer the personal touch of a photo sent to my smartphone. When I receive a smartphone image from one of my kids, close relatives, or friends, I know that they have taken the time to single us out for the attention. (I can lean over to my wife and show her the latest on my smartphone without leaving my seat or wading through Facebook.) It is definitely more personal. They may also post the photos on Facebook, but the extra effort to target my phone makes it a little more intimate. There is little personal about Facebook, and now, with the massive number of third-party posts I wade through on each visit, I feel even more estranged from the system. But that is not the only reason that I think the future of the giant social media platform is murky. Facebook now serves as a source of separation and antagonism
"In-Your-Face" Book

The current political climate is the most polarized (and emotional) that I have seen in my lifetime. While there have always been people on the extremes, in the past people were circumspect about where they expressed their most controversial views. Now they wear their opinions on their proverbial sleeves–Facebook, Twitter, or another Internet mouthpiece. It is exacerbated by the easy posting of cute graphics used to emphasize a particular political point.

For example, while half of your Facebook friends may enjoy articles or cartoons attacking (or supporting) Obama, the other half may find them offensive. The feelings run so strongly on both sides that whether it is known or not by the poster, reactions are invoked and relationships are hurt. This lack of personal discretion when openingly expressing views turns off people with contrary beliefs and makes Facebook a less hospitable environment.

I suppose it's not a problem if all of your family and friends share the same political  beliefs, but how often does that happen? More than once I have had a gut reaction to a third-party political post which was either inaccurate or totally gratuitous. While I'm immediately tempted to correct the errors by responding to the post, I know that it's a trap to be avoided.

Although when face-to-face I may engage in political discussions with friends on a one-to-one basis, expressing my most closely held positions on the Internet is counterproductive. Many may agree with me, but those who disagree will not be pleased with my thoughts. Long ago, I learned through ComputorEdge that one stray comment can start a war. In a forum like Facebook, it's best to hold your tongue.

I think that young people are especially vulnerable to talking too much on Facebook. I have relatives and friends who freely spout off their views on almost any topic. While I may not agree with their words, I have even more concern about how the poster might be impacted if the words are read by the wrong person–possibly their boss (or prospective boss). While people may claim to believe in freedom of speech, you had better pick your words carefully. Even if it's your right to say it, there are many who will not forgive you for doing so.

The point is that people often use Facebook as a confrontational platform. They may not intend it that way (or they may), but not everyone shares their opinion. Is it really a good idea for a private individual to make their innermost thoughts public? I think not. Who knows–you may want to run for president someday? Some less than well thought out views expressed on social media when you were just a pup may come back to sink your campaign. Even if you don't plan to ever run for office, political views are meant to be expressed in more private venues such as Thanksgiving dinner with your crazy relatives.

This polarizing aspect of Facebook, plus plethora of third-party posts, makes it an antisocial environment. (Ironically, it should be called "antisocial" media.) While I continue to access Facebook in hopes of catching pictures of my grandchildren, I've learned to speed past the chaff left behind by Facebook money making operations and well-meaning friends who want to influence world opinion. While I don't think that the collapse of Facebook is imminent, I do think it is coming…and there is nothing Facebook can do about it. When it happens, it will be a rapid decline. The history of the Internet tells us that this will be the case. After all, Facebook doesn't provide any unique content–its users do that. Facebook is merely a bunch of computers hosting what just happens to be the flavor of the day. If the users go, Facebook goes.

When my kids stop posting photos of their kids on Facebook, I'm gone.

1 comment:

  1. While I agree with 99 percent of the above, I'm sorry (for all of us) to disagree with the main conclusion. Voyeurism is the order of the day (witness the plethora of TV programs on this theme) and young people adore that. I know my daughter or my granddaughters will never stop using Facebook. Just another thing to ignore...