I put myself away from The Facebook for six months. Back into the jungle, I realised it is not the same. Something is going on for bad, even if the company is selling us the opposite idea. Facebook constitutes no utopia nowadays, and it does not seem this will change for better in the near future. Here are my reasons.
You are not a gadget
Facebook executive team is its worst stakeholder, because if they do not make profits they will jeopardize themselves, and hence they need to think more about money than humanity. Business is business.
As Facebook does not rely in a pay-per-use business model, they went into the same add cycle Google does. The great difference lies on the fact that, while Google serves links primarily, Facebook attempts to digitalise your social experience. We are used to see branded third-party content, but the idea of having our life franchised and marketed still sounds odd, regardless of the herds of technologists saying this will be the future. So far, this is the present and it is not working well.
In his book You Are Not A Gadget, Jaron Lanier unveils the dehumanizing state of the present Internet, leading to the construction of information monopolies that set the majority of humans as pawns to fuel the system but that get almost no benefit from it. We Facebook users go into the Facebook, share our lives and all what we get back is:
- The empty promise that being able to do such thing without using the email, FTP, messaging applications, or free software CMSs is a great privilege that we should value.
- A monitoring system that spies our private chats along with tracking our online activity, impels us from avoiding it for a little bit of intimacy and serves adds.
Given the circumstances, I would be ready to pay a yearly fee if that avoids me being diminished down to a marketing vector. Because it stinks. It is purely clear that all the design patters Facebook is implementing for the shake of the user are in fact for the shake of some pockets.
No one cares
We may be realising our lives are not that socially interesting after all. A decade or two ago, a digital-free social experience meant that you were more on control of your opinion about your life; but nowadays, we have been driven into a model that automatically compares us to each other. The more we take part, the more we accept the trade of putting our subjective experience next to others’.
Subjectively, your life cannot be better or worse than how you are able to envision it. Socially, this changes a lot; a small difference of perceived joy in between known people might make you feel like a loser. It is not that we build up this winner loop consciously, but as we select what we upload to Facebook and others do so, the mind compares automatically. The more we spread, the more the comparing events happen, up to the point that we are either winners or losers at the popularity game.
What could have been a pleasant intimate experience turns out to look like a mediocre day compared to a slightly better executed picture or a viral video. And the aftermath of it is that attention goes to the bombastic while unsuccessful stories breed the fear to share again. In a descending loop, the Facebook participation either dies or exposes mediocrity (I am sorry, but no coffee picture with your best friend can beat this cat video).
The perverse Like cycle
The Like button is a perverse design pattern that makes us look for the emotional prize of being accepted. On the process, your content defines you, your likes target you, and the relationships you stablish trough them indicate the connections in between you and your contacts (badly tagged as “friends”).
This is the factual indicator that no one cares, and in absence of likes you can feel ignored. However, Facebook does not order all what everybody posts chronologically, but selects what is shown to each person. As you may imagine, you will not be seen and “liked” as long as Facebook does not want so. As the network is not horizontal, all the maths will tend to benefit viral content in order to enhance participation. In this process, who is not being viral will be put in the crossroad of accepting submission or feeling unpopular.
With all, limiting success to a single value as “like me or not” works against the concept of quality and confuses it with quality. If you have been working on an intellectual level and you see more cat videos overwhelming a work of years, it is not hard to guess you will get tired of the joke. Wasn’t the Internet meant to enlighten us all?
Naggy activity log (The Goship Ghost)
We all had a big mouth in our lives. It is not that what we do is strictly private, but having a gold peak behind us reporting all our movements makes us feel out of control. If you congrat someone, it seems a little bit redundant that a third goes around telling everybody that you did so. The same if you make a comment about a movie, or read a book, or watched a video, or yelled about the prices in the supermarket. It is not strictly private, but if someone wants to know about all those trivial things the best idea is to come and ask.
Back to The Facebook I realised that third-party content is appearing on my timeline because a friend of mine interacted with it. I will be honest about this: I am avoiding liking or commenting content, because I do not want to flood my contacts’ walls with my activity. I feel like overly exposed, even when the information was already there. It is like having a bad friend who does not care about the way you do politics socially, who is underlying in front of everybody what you do regardless of what they may think. Also, it puts you out of control of how much you talk, as anything you do may be turned into a post in the face of other who may not be interested; and the more this happens, the worse their opinion about you will get.
This would be easily solved if Facebook understood society as a collection of people circles rather than as an absolute exposition of our day-life.
Facebook wants to be friend with everybody, but it is like a bad partner that does not want you to leave. So, when you realize it is over, they urge you to prosecute them in a court in order to delete you permanently. The reasons for this are still uncanny, as one less user would not damage the platform. Why to store all my private chats and serve them to everybody? Why to keep a backup of all my posts after the account access has been deleted permanently? Why to keep my likes all over the web when I just want to disappear?
This sort of obsessive behaviour breaks apart the friendly contract. For all its uses, Facebook must be treated as a tool as well, so no social sincerity can be put on it knowing that they will not respect your intimacy (I am not even talking about privacy, but about a fairly acceptable personal space everybody should respect if you are willing to be aside).
Facebook is losing mojo because it pretends to be social and friendly while the way it uses you to make money is getting too obvious and more important than how much you enjoy being there.
So for the future, this is my advice: do not take Facebook as friendly, but as a device to market yourself, as a mean to your ends, as something to manage your personal brand and coordinate social actions such parties. But, by any mean, base your life in a platform that is asking you to respect it while giving so clear signals that they will not do so towards you. Here is the ambiguity of the network.