Of late, I have felt myself naturally disengaging with Facebook.
It’s not that I have any real issues with it or that I have been on the end of any cyber unpleasantness.
It just doesn’t seem as fun any more.
When I first joined in 2007 and set about throwing sheep at people and poking them, it was all a bit new and strange, but quite engaging.
Within a couple of years, I found that the vast majority of my friends had jumped on board and that there was this really amazing social phenomenon happening. I could sit down at the end of the day and engage in conversation with a whole range of people on multiple topics. It was like chatting with people at a party, except it was Tuesday night and I was in my pyjamas! I remember laughing on a regular basis and having a feeling of genuinely enjoying my friends’ company.
I think there is a psychological need in all of us for relationships at different levels of proximity. There are the one or two very close relationships you might have with your partner or close friend. Then, a little further out, there is the handful of good friends you might have. But outside of this there exists another layer of relationships where you know them well enough to engage, but aren’t close enough to get under the surface and find the areas where you don’t connect. These are those same people you bump into every now and then, have a brief chat with and move on. They sit somewhere between good friends and acquaintances, but aren’t really either.
Facebook seemed to bring loads of people into this space. It seemed to swell the number of social connections I had.
And many humans, being social animals at heart, connected with this on a deep level.
Put simply, it was fun, very fun!
Now it’s just a little dull…
Something has changed.
The first problem I see is that Facebook seems to be a victim of its own success. Once upon a time your news feed would show you everything that your friends said. However, with more friends came more posts and my news feed started to scroll too fast, pushing information off the bottom too quickly. So, Facebook introduced an algorithm where it started to work out who you interacted with most and show you more of their posts and less of those who you didn’t interact with. This makes sense, except it pulled my social world back into my group of close friends again. I love my close friends, but I already spend time with them – it was the next layer out that was providing the fun.
That group fell off the radar.
Did you know that your posts will only be shown to 17 percent of your friends? If people like and comment on your post, Facebook’s algorithm will then show it to a few more of your friends. It will be deemed as engaging and so will be shared more and more. Unfortunately, this all means that the randomness of Facebook a few years ago has gone. It’s a little predictable now. I see the same people posting all the time. I want to have a whacky, unexpected conversation with that guy I haven’t seen in two years on a topic I didn’t know we had in common.
Regrettably, that’s a thing of the past.
The second problem for me is that Facebook went public last year. Having your company on the stock exchange means you have an obligation to earn money for your shareholders, which means you must sell more advertising. Today, advertising is rampant on Facebook. There aren’t just ads on the right hand side of your feed, they are embedded into the news feed itself. There are constant ads for apps and shops on mobile devices as well. I don’t think anyone has a massive problem with Facebook being profitable and providing employment to people. The problem is that the amount of engaging social and relational content is getting squeezed out by the ads. I scroll through the “noise” on Facebook looking for something interesting. No one likes noise, especially when looking to catch up with friends. It’s like sitting down at a coffee shop with your friends and someone coming up to you and trying to sell you a watch. You just want them to go away and leave you alone!
I think Facebook may be biting the hand that feeds it. MySpace committed a similar sin all those years ago and is now relegated to the dustbin in the history of Social Media. I can’t remember the last time I logged in.
With 11.5 million users in Australia alone, Facebook is well entrenched.
However, if it loses its core appeal – social interactivity – it will lose the vast bulk of its 11.5 million users when something more engaging comes along.
(Internet Marketing Consultant at www.jamesparnwell.com)