Peak Facebook

Jeswin proposes that Facebook has failed, explaining that the more you use Facebook, the worse it gets. He describes a login screen with 30 stories on it, four of which are interesting, and blames Facebook for encouraging its users — especially commercial users — to share in ways that make the experience worse for everyone.

I don't have a Facebook account and tend not to pay much attention to stories about the service, but I was struck by this: "their product looks like one of those spam filled mailboxes from the nineties." One of the claims for walled gardens is that they're able to use a combination of data-mining and the ability to kick out bad actors to make your inbox spam-free. I've always felt that this was wildly oversold: the hardest-to-deal-with "spam" in my inbox is stuff from people I know, or who know me, and who want attention from me for something that is worthy but that I lack time for (if I pay attention to their stuff, I'll have to neglect something else I've already committed to). Facebook makes it easier for more people to do this, which always sounded like a recipe for disaster to me. Likewise the ability to exclude bad actors: once you get to Facebook's size, you can't police spammers and crazies in realtime — they pop up faster than you can get rid of them. Every walled garden I ever used, all the way back to Compuserve, had problems with bad actors who'd fill up your screen with commercial pitches, hatemail, and other undesirable junk.

I was also struck by Jeswin's contention that Facebook gets worse the more you use it. That was certainly my experience in the brief time I was on Facebook; as I wrote in How Your Creepy Ex-Co-Workers Will Kill Facebook, the more people there are on a social network, the more people there will be inside your social graph that you don't want there, but can't exclude for social reasons. This essay's been reprinted a lot, so I'm guessing it struck a chord for many people.

For me, the problem with Facebook is that it doesn't exist to enhance your social experience — rather, it's there to monetize it, and if the best way to get rich from your social relationships is to distort them so that they become dysfunctional and a source of pain and anxiety, that's exactly what they're going to do. They want an experience that keeps you disclosing your personal information and keeps you visiting and clicking — not one that makes you happy. If the optimal way to get your attention is to make you miserable (and let's face it, Someone is wrong on the Internet is a powerful motivating force!), that's just what they'll do.

Facebook gets worse the more you use it

As you use Facebook more, you start accumulating friends. You become part of groups. You end up telling Facebook more about what you like and your preferences. But according to their design, every connection or 'like' is also a chance for somebody's updates to get into the list of stories shown to you.

After a period of active use, you have way too many friends, groups and pages that can get stories into your feed.

Loudmouths now have gigantic megaphones

Since everybody is on Facebook, one can expect that it will in some way mirror the behavior of society in general. In the real world however, people's opinions only have a limited reach.

Facebook is godsent (sic) for people who love to talk, but have nothing to say. Here is a network that doesn't care about originality or the quality of content. In the time it takes to create something original, they could share dozens of things.

The Facebook experiment has failed. Let's go back. [Jeswin/Medium]

(via O'Reilly Radar)

(Image: Facebook Developer Garage, Kris Krug, CC-BY-SA)