Facebook Sucks: A New Perspective

11
May
2008

Today a comment was left on my post, Top Ten Reasons Facebook Sucks, that I thought was intelligent enough as well as amusing enough to highlight in its own post (you can still find the comment on the original post as well). This perspective comes from a reader named Simone and goes a bit beyond the PR uses of Facebook or other social networks, touching more upon another issue: Facebook’s own hype (including message and delivery on the Facebook apps front and the company’s pandering to the tech crowd). Enjoy:

I am a “recent” college graduate in the field of Computer Science (2004), so I thought I would chip in my two cents, from a developer wanna-be-garage-entrepeneur perspective.

As a college student and young human being with raging hormones, I was often too busy studying to socialize; Most of the time I was in front of a computer hacking out epic volumes of code. In the limited free time I had left over, I would actually interact with my friends face-to-face… a riveting three dimensional experience with surround sound. So I was kinda late in getting into the “social networking” scene, as I didn’t bother to get involved until recently… that is, until after I graduated.

Now as a college graduate and an aspiring future tycoon of the internet (modestly speaking), I was actually excited about “social networking”. My like-minded colleagues were constantly raving about all sorts of ideas and possibilities for taking interactivity “to the next level” and guys like Mark Zuckerberg were featured articles in financial and geeky magazines as if social networking was brand new oil field just waiting to be tapped. The fact that Facebook (and maybe others) provided developer-friendly frameworks to encourage people like us to build these kinds of applications on top of THEIR network was like icing on the cake.

By the way, to satisfy your FAD angle hunger from our perspective, take a peek at Mark Zuckerberg making his rockstar-like entrance to his keynote address to “800 developers at the San Francisco Design Center about Facebook Platform, why we built it, and the applications it enables people to build.” Go here:

http://developers.facebook.com/videos.php

and watch as Zuckerberg subliminally brainwashes 800 (semi-)intelligent developers into salivating over this “movement” in the industry. Zuckerberg thinks so much of Facebook that its like he has his head so far up his ass that it comes back out where it started. He creates a false sense of clout by treading on a fine line between speaking condescendingly and kissing our ass with statements like “We don’t want any of your new applications to be second class citizens in our environment.” and “We’re gonna LET you make money … you get to KEEP ALL of your revenue … that’s YOUR revenue … so you can build a REAL business …” which is followed by a large applause. I was waiting for him to start talking to us like dogs… “that’s YOUR kibbles… that’s right… you like that, don’t you, don’t you… that’s a good DOG… you’re a GOOD dog… yes, you are… yes, you are…”

So yeah, back to shortly after graduation when I decided to start focusing my interests on this little thing called “social networking” I heard about and sign up for a Facebook account.

Man, what a big disappointment. The mother of all disappointments. I signed up for an account, confirmed my email address and it was all downhill from there. I was willing to cut Facebook some slack early on because I have seen some terrible products evolve into great ones in the past. But their general policy of opt-out rather than opt-in sucks! It doesn’t take a genius to realize that social networking without a sound privacy policy is a nightmare. I am shocked that they have been able to get away with operating that way. The more I explored Facebook, the less I trusted the website and felt more stupid about how all the hype sucked me in like a sheep in the first place.

And somehow, in all the hype (both in the social world as well as the technical world), I realized an essential thing was missing from the whole concept of Facebook. Is there a particular benefit that can only be found specifically in “social networking” that didn’t already exist before this phrase was coined?

Its really nothing more than a forum. You can search for people based on education or employment and add them to a list called “Friends”. Like trophies dedicated to how awesome your social life is. “Look, I have 193 people associated with me. I’m awesome! You only have one and its your cousin. What a loser. LOL”

Facebook is a glorified bulletin board for people with too much time on their hands peddled by Mark Zuckerberg and his money grubbing developers as a “movement”.

Simone’s final point is one that I agree with wholeheartedly. Ironically, I’d mentioned this several weeks back in my podcast interview for Tech PR Warstories. In that case, I talked briefly about the fact that the most tech-savvy of audiences (webmasters, Web designers, developers, etc) actually aren’t using social networks as widely as other groups (like marketing and PR folks) to communicate with each other in a business capacity (other than to market their sites, services, and crap to the less savvy audience of course). These groups are still using the “antiquated” tool of forums instead for more serious business (and very actively and successfully).

Seems backwards, doesn’t it? These are the people creating the social networks, yet they’re still using forums / bulletin boards more actively to network with each other. Why is that? Frankly, I have no doubt that its partly resource-related. Social networks are often quite bloated (images, videos, etc. – being Web 2.0 “pretty” makes for a slower-loading site). I’m a moderator for one of the largest webmaster forums out there, and I find it amusing how quickly the community is to react any time something slows down, even for a few minutes… it’s no wonder they prefer the simpler environment, where the slowdowns aren’t likely to be as frequent.

I think the other issue is the fact that these groups have been actively networking online for such a long time now that the communities are huge and stable. Why waste time testing new waters when you can learn a lot (and make a lot of money) in existing communities? It wouldn’t make sense. Social networks like Facebook fill no void and offer nothing new that the audience needs.

Anyway, I just thought this second perspective was an interesting one. I’d be interested to hear what others think of it, especially on the subject of Facebook apps (are they a big reason you use Facebook, or do you see them becoming a blog plugin-like problem where they’ll be over-used, again leading to slower sites / profiles and more wasted time?).

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7 Comments

  • Simone says:

    Ha… I am glad you enjoyed reading my comment as much as I enjoyed contributing it (humor-wise). I like your blog. I am a little burnt out on “social networking” now but I’ll just say in general that your posts on the subject hit the nail on the head. Its hype and its worth discussing because its bewildering how it got to be so hyped. I find the PR perspective to be an insightful supplement to sorting out the chaos in one’s own mind. Its amusing how we can know something sucks yet amazingly it takes several insights from different perspectives to really get at the core of the suckiness and clearly articulate exactly WHY it sucks.

    Hype has the advantage of not having to make sense, it just has to be appealing and it only needs to slip by undetected by the radars for just long enough for the thing (subject of the hype) to become firmly planted. Then it becomes hard to get rid of… at least for awhile… and someone somewhere behind the scenes is getting a free ride on the gravy train.

  • Simone, one of the things I’ve found most interesting about Facebook is how it didn’t even register with most PR folks until long after the insane hype was under way with the tech crowd – and I don’t mean about it’s benefits… I mean the “Facebook is worth how much???” hype. That’s what started the latest wave of chatter, usage, and obsession. I just find it funny that the PR crowd of all would get sucked in the way they did.

  • smith says:

    i like when people make the excuse “its the only way i can keep in touch with so and so”

    its called a phone…

    i want to see one about myspace?!

  • lol I have to admit I don’t use the phone as much as I should anymore. But point taken. 🙂

    And I can’t really say too much about Myspace on the PR front, as it’s not “all the buzz” in that community. I will say this however:

    Myspace is great if you’re trying to reach independent musicians. There’s no denying that. I also think that Myspace is going to control the youngest demographics in social networking as long as they keep that stranglehold on those musicians (something they’ve been putting more focus back into lately). I think they’re just as lousy in a general PR capacity as Facebook is. They’re also quite littered with spam, despite their efforts to clean it up (just as most social media tools end up once the Internet marketers sink their claws in deep enough).

  • Tony says:

    Haha. Ah man.

    People hopped onto these sites like it’s a new world order forming, and you gotta hope on the band wagon if you wanna be in it.

    Yeah, and Jen, I want to see you tear apart other social networking sites. I’d love to send you a copy of “Cult of the Amateur” by Andrew Keen. I think it’d be right down your ally.

    And yeah, the sad thing is, in a way, we’re trolling people right now with this. I’m not saying we’re not correct, rather we have an unpopular view point at this time, and you really got to calculate in that with the fact we’re being totally up front and lol: cognitive dissonance (more community college bullwark).

    Fads die. Remember, 5 years ago people were saying Pokemon would never go. Now all that money spent on those cards and you may as well use them for, quite literally, toilet paper.

  • Simone says:

    Tony: Fads do die. What I find really hilarious is how fads die and then sometimes become re-animated and die again (occasionally more than once if it was a very big fad with a large following and that special nostalgic factor). There is a recent occurrence of this: does anybody remember that cheesy boy band “New Kids on the Block” from the early late 80’s and early 90’s? You know, like “You got the right stuff, baby”. Yeah, well, believe it or not the group got back together and made a new album and will be going on tour this year. That is something I never thought I’d see. They’ve got a shiny new website and everything:

    http://www.nkotb.com/

    I reluctantly admit that I got sucked into the NKOTB fad but its probably forgivable considering that I was only 10-11 years old at the time… probably. Anyways, its funny to think they have a website given the nostalgic time capsule they are digging back up from a time when there was no internet unless you count those early dial-up services like prodigy and early AOL that were super-expensive and super-nerdy because the most fun you could find were text-based games written in “hypercard” and downloading a simple JPG image took literally hours. I remember exploiting another one-month free trial of AOL and getting really excited about finding images of Patrick Swayze with no shirt (remember when he was the alpha dog of hot male celebrities – so hilarious now by today’s standards) and I would be waiting with anticipation as the image progressively filled in the blank portion of the screen… adding a few rows of pixels every 20 minutes or so. And just when things were getting interesting – unveiling Swayze’s rippling abs – my Mom would pick up the phone in the other room and the connection would drop! Ack! 1 hour and 12 minutes down the tubes! ha ha.

    So yeah, no internet, no text-messaging on your blackberry (because there were no cellphones… back then they were “car phones”). Forget about things like twitter, facebook and myspace.

    How did we ever get by in those days? We lived like CAVEMEN!

  • Dankoozy says:

    I don’t think they could make facebook suck anymore if they tried.


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