Facebook, We need to talk

Facebook friends and users, we need to talk. This isn’t working out for me. It’s you, and it’s probably a little bit of me, but this has gone on too long and I need to cut the cord.

I’m tired of the stupid memes, the pointless life updates that no one really cares about but reads anyway, the twitter-like brevity of posts which turns them into drivel, the vaguebooking, the check-ins to places I’ll never be or visit (and don’t care about), the horrible segregation of friends (work-friends, family, acquaintances, and random people you may have met once), and the horrible history/timeline page in which you can’t find any of the actual information you’re looking for.

Facebook, you try to do so many things and end up failing at almost all of them. I know I’m probably not your target audience because I rarely post, I don’t upload pictures or video, I don’t buy stuff through the facebook apps or games, and I certainly don’t evangelize the site to other people, but god damn you’re bad.

I want to take a little bit of time to go through all the problems I have with Facebook.

1) People post the stupidest shit I don’t care about way more than the stuff I actually do care about. This is probably my main complaint with it. I initially signed up for Facebook because I wanted to see my best friend’s wedding pictures, but it was also to keep up to date with friends that I don’t interact with very often. This, it turns out, it is not very good at in most of the cases. The signal to noise ratio is so low, that I often start tuning out most people’s updates. I care about marriages, big trips people went on, nice surprises that happened to them, well thought out ideas or commentary; things of that nature. Unfortunately, these seem to be the rare things that people post. Don’t even get me started on vaguebooking, where people post things like “Uh, oh, something bad just happened.” If you have the time to post that something bad happened, GIVE CONTEXT. Are you ok? Do you need help? Don’t be an attention whore since all those types of posts imply is that you want someone to say “What’s wrong?” Next to vaguebooking as the worst types of posts are the slactivism ones such as “Post this on your wall if you care about this thing.” How about you volunteer, donate, or do something else other than sitting on your lazy ass making you think you’re actually doing something. These types of posts on facebook suck. I’ve tried to stay away from this type of thing, and if you look at my history, I’d say I’ve done a fairly good job. People complain sometimes that I don’t post enough, but if they really want to know how I am, there’s always e-mail or the phone. I wish that other people felt the same.

2) I really don’t care about what game you’ve been playing lately (on Facebook), what song you’ve been listening to (on Spotify or elsewhere), what article you’ve read recently (on the NYTimes), or what physical place you’ve checked into. What does this tell me? There’s no context to any of this. I don’t have the time to check out all the links that people put on Facebook, so tell me why I should care about it. Also, fuck you Facebook for not allowing me to disable every single thing like this. I know you want the ad revenue and the clicks and what not, but it really, really sucks for the user. Facebook has been trying to monetize their operation for a while, and while this is a good way to do it, it’s really annoying.

3) Facebook is a terrible history keeper. I was trying to find out some information on a cat litter box that my friend had posted about several years in the past, but I couldn’t do it. There’s no search function, the timeline only shows you what Facebook thinks is interesting (and not what I actually want to find), and it’s not indexed in google since it’s a walled in garden, so I can’t use traditional search engines to find it out. Facebook is a place where you put in information about yourself, but you can’t get it out, at all. If I want to find something out that I put on my blog, there are very easy ways to do so. I wish that Facebook was half as functional in that regard.

4) Discussions suck on Facebook. We learned out over ten years ago that a flat comment system is one of the worst ways to hold a discussion on the internet. You can’t reply under people, which makes the comments fractured and hard to read. Don’t even get me started on posts that have more than 20 comments. It gets unreadable very, very quickly. It’s fine for posts that have 2-3 comments, but anything past that is really bad. The other bad part is that discussions often have groups of people that are very different and have no relation to each other aside from the original poster. Combine this with the fact that some people use Facebook as a popularity contest and have 1000+ people on their friends list, and you may be conversing with idiots. There are no moderators and people say the dumbest crap sometimes. Unless you personally know the people you’re commenting with, more than likely the anonymous aspect of the fact that you don’t know them will come out even though you’re not technically anonymous. Even if you’re in a group that’s trying to have a serious conversation about a serious topic (abortion, politics, soccer), it’s really hard to do because of the structure of the comment system is so poor.

5) There’s no good way to segregate my feed like I would a normal RSS reader. Some of my friends have started posting music on a daily basis, which I enjoy, but it tends to take up a BUNCH of space. I can’t filter these music posts and put them in a folder that I’d like to read later. They’re all under one global feed. It’s like an RSS reader (which is awesome and super extensible), but without any of the good parts. I can’t mark posts as read, unread, save for later, etc. They’re in a stream of consciousness that just doesn’t seem to be formatted at all. Also, the fact that, by default, Facebook doesn’t show you all of the posts/updates from friends is really aggravating. I want to keep up to date with what’s going on, I want to see music, funny videos, etc, I just don’t want them to all come to me in the same manner. Some people I like because I play sports with them, some people I like because I work with them, some people I like because I’m related to them; none of these things mean that I’ll like all of those topics with everyone. Filters.

So what does Facebook actually do well? Events, groups, and having nearly everyone on it. Hardly anyone uses Evite.com anymore as it’s easier to add people to a Facebook event and update people that way. It’s very good at this and is one of the primary reasons I haven’t left Facebook altogether. There are also groups that I’m a part of that are low chatter but have important updates similar to a mailing list. Lastly, having almost everyone on Facebook means there’s an easy way to figure out how to contact someone. It’s a huge white pages directory that’s semi-easy to find people on (much easier than Googling someone’s name and wondering if this is the same Sam Robinson that I know, or if it’s a completely different one).

I wish that I could get a facebook lite, in which people rarely update except with important information or pictures I actually care about (from important events), and have an easy way to contact them with, and be able to set up events that people can respond to. That, for me, would be ideal. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’d make much money and I don’t think people are trained to do that sort of thing. In this day and age a lot of us are focused on the 140 character update, the simple checkin, and the quick post instead of the well thought out post, the informative article, or something else of that nature. The latter group takes time, which most people don’t want to dedicate to doing those sorts of activities.

I think what I’m going to end up doing is closing down all functionality of Facebook aside from adding friends and accepting/initiating events after today. If I really want to know what’s going on with someone, I may check up on them from time to time, but generally speaking, the day to day drivel that goes on on Facebook is worthless to me. I’m more than likely to hear about how someone is doing from either themselves or second hand, which is fine by me. I want to believe that Facebook is actually going to change at some point into something that I want, but I just don’t see that happening. Unfortunately, Google Plus seems to have many of the same problems that Facebook has, so I don’t think moving over there is going to solve much. I don’t know if it’s indicative of the medium, or just how people have implemented it, but I hope it changes.