The arrogance and inevitable death of Facebook

fb-woloks

Facebook has ruled on high for nearly a decade, but the social media site is heading for disaster if it keeps going down this particular road.

Facebook used to be great. Really, it did. It was a fun place to kill a bit of time, engage in some chat, find out news and have a laugh.

That’s all changed now.

Facebook is famous for implementing un-asked for and unwanted changes into it’s makeup, but those changes are now threatening it’s very existence. Not only are people not communicating as much because of them, but are finally coming to the end of their tether. The site would do well to really start listening to its users otherwise it will most certainly go the way of the similarly cocky Myspace, a lesson to be learned if ever there was one. Changes are good, but they MUST benefit the user first and put simply, they just don’t.

This ticking bomb is reaching critical mass and so here are the things which Facebook will NEED to sot out if it is to survive

Top Stories vs Most recent

The news feed is the site’s bread and butter. When describing Facebook to a new user I often say it’s like a newspaper but the news is written by your friends about their lives and thoughts. The thing is you wouldn’t read a newspaper from a few days ago would you? This is exactly what Top Stories does. It’s a setting whereby the news feed shows posts in order of highlights rather than chronological. The problem is that the highlights are chosen by an automated Facebook algorithm and often it’ll show (seemingly random) posts from 2 or 3 days ago. Sometimes it can even throw up one from a month earlier.

This is incredibly annoying, as not only are you not getting the most fresh and up to date news, but someone else might start commenting on something which you posted AGES ago. This is tiresome in itself, but since Facebook automatically bumps anything which you like or comment on up to the top of your friend’s news feeds, it turns in to tedious repetition of old material which is being seen.

The solution to this is to set the news feed to “Most recent” which DOES order things chronologically, but there’s a catch! Regardless of if you have manually set things to Most Recent, Facebook will automatically set the order of the news feed back to Top Stories a few times a day. There’s no warning for this and it’s seemingly done at random, but let me tell you, there is little more frustrating when you are a good chunk into a morning scan of what’s been happening and you realise that you’re looking at posts from a week ago and so have to go and set the feed from “Top Stories” to “Most Recent” and then start over again.

If you organise your morning as tightly as I do then it can be a sour start to the day.

Auto Posting

In recent years, Facebook has become obsessed with displaying ANY change to your personal information and this comes in the form of auto posting. If you make any adjustments to your personal information, Facebook will automatically post a status telling all your friends that “So and so has updated their about section” or “So and so has updated their work information”. 

Similarly, if you want to change your profile picture, Facebook will automatically post the new image (in a large format of course) and tell everyone “so and so has changed their profile picture”. It’s incredibly embarrassing and gives off the impression that you are doing it yourself in some form of narcissistic action. There is no opt out option either, it’s pretty much mandatory and so he result of this is that the more discrete users of Facebook are making their profile picture anything other than images of themselves. There is the workaround of going to whatever it is after it’s been posted and hiding it from your timeline, but unless you do that at 3am when everyone is asleep then it’s guaranteed that at least a few people will see before you get to it.

If you’re like me, then posts will only be one form of saying how you feel. Often changing a profile or cover picture will be a visual means of expression, but I personally would want it to be a subtle one and not blurted out for everyone to see.

Have it by all means but give people the CHOICE!

Big text

One of the most infuriating features of the site in the last year or so is the inclusion of the big text in posts. This is where if you type anything less than, I think it’s 84 characters, then the text is automatically displayed in a massive font. The main complaint of this is that it looks like the person writing the post is SHOUTING, and most people prefer to be far more subtle than that.

It directly affects expression too. Gone is the ability to post short, witty and humorous quips, so rather than put up with it people are pretty much forced to write longer spiels than usual in order to get the text back to normal size.

There’s no point to it that I can see and not one person I know likes it or has found a practical use for it.

Compatibility

Facebook has spent so much time implementing things like the big text or auto posting and yet some of the more practical complaints have remained largely ignored.

For people like, for example, musicians, social media is essential for getting your material about and the top platform for that is Soundcloud. Now it used to be that you could embed a Soundcloud player directly in to a Facebook post and then people could listen to your song there and then. That’s gone now, and the best you can do is post a link which will take you to the Soundcloud page which the song is on.

It may not seem like a huge complaint but it actually is. It’s one more thing to click on before reaching the target, and often one click too many is all it takes for people to simply not bother. That and being actively taken away from Facebook isn’t desirable in the modern multitasking mind which has one eye on the notifications as well as the ears listening to the music.

It can be likened to having to actively get out of a nice warm bed in order to put on some music on a stereo across the cold room when you could just play it on an iPod and stay where you are. The same thing can happen with videos, although posting YouTube content is still largely ok if you put a space after the copied and pasted URL, but it’s still prone to often just posting a link rather than a player.

Facebook have ignored these issues for years now and don’t seem to really have much of an interest in fixing it.

Lists

The friends lists is one of the very best features Facebook ever came up with. this allows you to create multiple groups in which you can limit content for specific people.

For example, I like to talk about old retro games, but I know a lot of people on my main friends list wouldn’t liken to see that too often so I made a group called “Games” which has a list of people who are quite in to the subject and only they will see the posts.

There can be lists for everything and anything and it’s a great way of streamlining your content to the people who will actually appreciate it, as well as freeing up the main news feed.

Now, there’s nothing much wrong with the lists but they could use a bit of an organisational update. A newer change meant that they are cumbersome to get to now (that one more click issue raising it’s head again) and it seems that it’s preferable for you to now make a list then go back to the main news feed and select that list from the privacy section there rather than just posting on the list group itself like it use to be.

This would be ok but, holy shit, it’s really fiddly. For a start the lists do not appear in alphabetical order so it’s a chore to find the right one. Secondly, often you’ll have to click a “See More” button a few times to get to the list instead of just showing everything at once which would be more sensible.

This is a smaller issue  but really, it’s still a viable one.

Support

If you have an issue with Facebook then…tough shit! There is zero official support for the site. Zero!

There is a support forum, but it’s the old trick of being a user support forum. What that means is that it’s not for users to use, but rather it’s run by users and designed just for people to talk in the slim hope that one person has maybe figured out a solution to an issue.

The ironic thing is that the forums are chock full of people complaining about the very changes that Facebook has forced apon them. I think there may be a technical email address which users can complain to but I have never ever heard of anyone getting a reply from it, never mind any sort of action.

In other words, the users are ignored.

Pages

If you have a business or band or maybe are a painter or event organiser than it’s sensible that you would have a Facebook page for that particular part of your life.

That is until they started changing things.

Besides the fact that Facebook pages are cumbersome to manage (far more than they used to be) but they have been rendered useless by the atrocious feature of having to pay for your posts to be seen. The thing is, it often doesn’t even work.

I’ve had people with craft pages telling me that their followers haven’t been seeing paid for posts and that is disgraceful. There must then be an issue with the algorithm which is preventing this or even worse, it’s deliberate.

Facebook’s revenue has been from advertising. It’s has always been from advertising and that’s the way it should be, and that’s fair enough. Money has to be made somehow and I don’t grudge the odd advert here and there. However, asking people to hand over cold hard cash AS WELL as putting in tons of adverts is just sheer and obvious greed.

Newsfeed clutter

The last time I looked through my news feed I stopped about 3 pages in and thought to myself “This isn’t what I want to see!”

There was about one genuine post from someone on my friend list. The others were “suggested posts” peddling clickbait, “paid advert” posts which suspiciously feature whatever I’ve recently been looking at on Google (privacy breach much?) and stuff from people who I don’t even know because one of my friends liked one of their posts.

There is the aforementioned issue with comments and likes as well, and it goes like this:

If say, someone hasn’t set their news feed from “Top Stories” to “Most Recent” then more than likely they will see an old post of mine and either like or comment on it.

Now that’s ok, but I then feel obliged to comment back and any like or comment which I make will automatically shove this old post back up to the top of everyone’s news feeds. This means that my friends will be seeing old posts again and again (regardless of whether they liked or commented on it before) and they will be cluttering up their Facebook experience, which then makes me feel uncomfortable.

It’s really annoying, especially if the rare occasion comes along where you are having a right good in depth talk about something and other people have to put up with it. Sure, they can hide your post but is that sort of negative bad blood move really what we want to be moving towards?

No discussion

Facebook used to be a place of wild and satisfying discussion. From in depth political to and fros to Arnie quote competitions. Now it’s lucky if things go past a like and a comment, and I’m guessing it’s largely due to some of the aforementioned problems.

No-one wants to be consistently shoving things in people’s faces yet that’s what Facebook ultimately are making it’s users doing. The thing is that, people, especially people in Scotland, aren’t generally like that and we prefer not to bother at all rather than appear confrontational or pushy.

Outatime

All the changes that Facebook have put apon it’s users aren’t exactly pure evil in themselves, it’s the fact that they are forced.

I truly believe that people would maybe use these features more if they were simply given the choice. There may very well be an occasion where you want an old post to go to the top of a news feed, or maybe you are celebrating an event and want to have your profile picture posted.

That’s great, but not ALL THE TIME!!!

I’ve been toying with deactivating my Facebook account for some time now. It’s not that it’s an unbearably terrible experience (yet) but the fact is that it’s just not serving any real purpose. Not like it used to anyway. There is the option of just not signing in, but then there is the risk of unanswered messages and the impression that you are ignoring people.

At the end of the day, Facebook is now little more than a corporate advertising ground where people would rather not say anything at all rather than feel a little uneasy. Still, as long as people keep looking at those ads then no-one at the top really cares if anyone communicates or not. Mark Zuckerberg seems like a nice guy, but he obviously doesn’t have much to do with the running of the site any more, bar lending his name to it as part of a friendly face mask for the suit operated business monster.

The only real used I have for Facebook is the Events calendar where I can check up on gigs and birthday celebrations et al. It’s a crying shame that Facebook has split it’s program and made separate apps for it’s main site AND it’s messenger (what’s the point in that) but can’t do the same for the events.

Facebook is already feeling the grip of corporate greed. Myspace is a mess these days and Facebook seems to be heading in exactly the same direction, but it’s as if they don’t care. It’s like the aliens from Independence Day: they latch on to something, strip it for all it’s worth then leave it desolate and move on to something else.

Is that what’s happening with Social Media? Some young bright spark has a really cool idea which benefits people then the money men get their claws in and it deteriorates into a tacky sales bot? It’s almost like watching a beautiful child grow up and becoming a whore who will eventually be left broken, track-marked and riddled.

The problem is there’s no alternative. Someone recently made a clone of the OLD Myspace site called Myspaceretro and people were signing up left right and centre which shows the thirst for something simple and practical. That is, until the corporate lawyers started to get involved and now the site has been shut down.

With Facebook’s new found arrogance of changes which not only don’t do anything to improve the experience but instead detracts from it, they will soon discover that people really only have time for so much shit.

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Author: aviewfromaskewblog

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