I’m just going to cut to the chase and say it. Facebook is not as much fun as it used to be, at least not for me. As an early adopter of Facebook, I’ve had a profile since 2005 back when it was still called “thefacebook.” There used to be a time when the urge to spend time on Facebook was so strong that I couldn’t resist, even when I should have been studying for a big test. But now there is an endless list of things I would rather be doing instead of spending time on Facebook. I have even considered just deleting my Facebook profile. I haven’t done that yet (primarily due to popular demand of course), but after doing some research, it turns out there are a lot of other people considering deleting their profiles too. Maybe you are one of them.
The first reason Facebook is not as much fun as it used to be is because it has become a liability for many people. Mark Zuckerberg’s original vision for Facebook was essentially a “digital version of the college experience” and as such Facebook was originally exclusive to college students. Only college students could make profiles, so they knew that only other college students could view their profile. The “liability factor” didn’t really come into play when the social network expanded to include high school students because most of them would eventually become college students anyway. But when Facebook became open to anyone over the age of 12, groups of people that previously could not view content on students’ Facebook profiles were now able to do so. All of a sudden prospective employers, parents, extended family and complete strangers could now view your pictures, events, posts and more. And when I say strangers, I mean the more dangerous brand of strangers that exist outside of the “college world” bubble. And before you say “well just change your privacy settings”, that brings me to another reason Facebook is not as much fun as it used to be.
Privacy settings have been a constant complaint against Facebook. Why spend time learning how to use a website if it is going to change drastically about every 12 months? I understand that innovation and change are key components for success in the technology and social networking industry, but after a certain point it seems as if Facebook changes things just for the sake of changing things. Privacy settings changes occur even more frequently than every 12 months. So you constantly have to re-learn how to hide your profile, posts and pictures from high school classmates that you don’t want to talk to, former significant others, stalkers, etc. Another unwelcome change, at least to me, was the “unified inbox.” I turned off Facebook chat soon after it came out and haven’t used it since due to the confusion created by the “unified inbox” mixing “regular messages” and “chat messages” together. And now, apparently you can’t even delete messages any more. When you click the “x” that used to delete them, now they are only archived (and Facebook holds on to them for some unknown reason).
Just to reiterate, I have no problem with change. Change is a part of life. When Facebook introduced the “news feed” feature, I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. But I can’t say that about all of Facebook’s changes. When Facebook released the “timeline” format for profiles, I didn’t think it was a step forward (and still don’t to this day). It’s too photo-centric, which came at the cost of moving most of the “about me” information to a separate page. It’s also too chaotic, with items on a profile’s timeline being different sizes, arranged on different sides of the timeline, etc.
Last but not least, Facebook is becoming too similar to the social networking site it replaced; Myspace. Mypace tried to cash in on its popularity to the extreme that it was too much of a hassle for users to actually use the website for social networking. Specific examples included fakes, spammers and promoters. Those things put together made Myspace no longer fun to use and thus came about the rise of Facebook. Unfortunately, those things are becoming more prevalent on Facebook. Unless you have your privacy settings very high, every other time you log on Facebook there are friend requests waiting for you from people who apparently all happen to be models but are actually old, overweight and living with their parents. Your inbox fills up with messages from spammers who want you to try their Facebook app, buy their product, check out their amazing sales, etc. And it’s a constant battle to cleanse your wall and news feed of posts from promoters who want you to “like” a page, come out to their nightclub, listen to their band, etc.
So like I said, Facebook is not as much fun as it used to be. And now that the company has gone “public”, I don’t predict things will improve. The shift in priority for Facebook will move away from putting the users first to putting the investors and making money first. I predict, and you read it first here, that another social network will someday replace Facebook. That social network will give users innovative ways to connect with friends or family and will limit the hassle of fakes, spammers and promoters through exclusivity. It’s the same formula Facebook used to replace Myspace.