Pete Davison: Social Peril II: The Periling

Posted on June 19, 2011 by


As a social network, Facebook is arguably becoming less meaningful — that is, from the perspective of encouraging meaningful interactions with one another. This, I feel, is in part due to how cluttered it is these days — cluttered with people, cluttered with businesses, cluttered with applications. I long for the simplicity of the site as it was when I first joined it, when it didn’t even have a chat system and friend requests required you to indicate how you knew the person — kind of what LinkedIn does nowadays, only with people actually talking to each other instead of using phrases like “blueskying” and “monetization”.

A fine example comes up if you look at the Facebook Page for any social game, ever. You can pick any random example and this will happen. Look at something the producers of the game say, then look at the community comments. You might have 25% meaningful discussion (a somewhat optimistic estimate — if the game is popular you can reduce that down to less than 5%) and 75% people just going “add me”. This also happens on App Store reviews for “multiplayer” (and I use the term loosely) games.

It’s not just that, though. Posts on Pages vaguely related to Xbox/PS3 will bring the fanboys for both camps out in force, ranting and raving at each other and not even addressing the point that was made in the original wall post — burying any meaningful discussion amidst the usual spray of bile, hatred and testosterone.

Beyond that, though, a lot of the trouble lies with the changing way people use Facebook nowadays. When it was a simplistic, app-free system, people used it to communicate. People would write a status, other people who knew the original person would comment. People might post a link or a photo, people would comment. Simple, effective. Now, though, with the fact that everyone and his dog has a Share to Facebook button, this simple clarity of communication has been almost completely lost. You get the occasional aberration where a topical post can bloom into an interesting discussion between friends, but soon enough it’s lost in the never-ending cycle that is your News Feed, devaluing the interaction until it’s gone, forgotten, meaningless.

The simple answer is, of course, to adapt. Realise that Facebook is not about permanence and the long-term, it’s about the here, the now, the narcissistic. “This” is happening right now, so you share it. Here’s a photo. Here’s my new Bejeweled Blitz high score. I’m playing a game with farms in it. I took a quiz to determine which colour from the Dulux range I “am”. PAY ATTENTION TO ME.

Facebook’s new Messages system doesn’t help, either. Muddling your chats in with your actual messages is a dumb idea, because the sort of thing you write in a message is typically lengthier than what you write in a chat. And then it all gets jumbled together, so if you had a message thread with some meaningful information in it followed by a chat with said person about how much you heard they like cock due to whoever just facejacked their profile, then it becomes nigh-on impossible to find anything useful.

I’m not too concerned about the whole thing, though, to be honest. Facebook does what I need it to for now, which is to allow me to share links to my articles and work to people who might be interested or might not have another means of finding out about them, and occasionally proving to be the most reliable means of contacting people. As such, I’ll likely keep my profile there, but my usage of the platform is at a bare minimum these days, as I don’t feel like it’s really for me any more. Twitter, on the other hand, still does everything I need it to and still remains pretty much as pure and clear as it was the day I started using it. Let’s hope it stays that way.

(In other news, I had a lovely weekend away, as you may have surmised from that last post. Thank you to Andie for making it happen!)

Posted in: Pete Davison