Facebook’s Big Problem

Beautiful and well-argued post from The New Inquiry:

Facebook is like a television that monitors to see how much you are laughing and changes the channel if it decides you aren’t laughing hard enough. It hopes to engrain in users the idea that if your response to something isn’t recordable, it doesn’t exist, because for Facebook, that is true. Your pleasure is its product, what it wants to sell to marketers, so if you don’t evince it, you are a worthless user wasting Facebook’s server space. In the world according to Facebook, emotional interiority doesn’t exist. Introspection doesn’t exist, and neither does ambivalence. There is only ostentatious enthusiasm or null dormancy.

It’s worth your brain’s time to go read the entire piece, but the above paragraph is the penultimate one that makes the clearest comparison that non-techies can understand in the middle of talk about algorithms and organic searches.

Facebook’s main problem, in my opinion, is that the company (from the releases to date at least) doesn’t put stock in the power of its many users. Certainly, with a billion or so people using the service that seems like a fantastical idea. However, we continue to see growth in companies like Twitter and Google that, while relying on algorithms themselves, do much more than Facebook to maintain some transparency in their dealings and actively work to include the voice of users beyond what they might want to receive in the form of marketing messages.

When it runs out of its hydrogen and helium, Facebook will inevitably implode because of its own gravity into a black hole that will suck in all of the web or into a cooling dwarf star that is but a shadow of its former self (or a very cool quasar but that’s probably not going to happen). I’m betting on the dwarf star. We’ll look back on this period of the web and wonder what sucked us all in to its gravitational pull and why we fell for it. Books will be written about the cognitive surplus that web users enjoy post-Facebook while relying on services that will still be shining bright like Twitter.

In the meantime, let’s demand more than to be treated like a captive audience from the services we use.

Leave a Reply