Misc, The Forecast

Facebook: Why are we here?

If you’re a Facebook user (and who isn’t these days?) you’ve probably noticed some changes this week.  Some people like them, I’m sure, but most people I’ve talked with are less than thrilled. 

So what gives?  This week at the developer conference, Mark Zuckerberg and the team illuminated Facebook’s vision for its future and ours.  Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook team are guiding us into a new world of social media on the web.  And given its current position as the “de facto standard” today, Facebook has quite a lot of influence on said new world. 

In no uncertain terms, Facebook wants you to share.  As Farhad Manjoo of Slate puts it, “Sharing, in Zuckerberg’s view, has morphed from an affirmative act…to something more like an unconscious state of being.”  Citing the outward focus on third party apps and “auto share” integrations, Manjoo continues, “If Facebook’s CEO has his way, everything you do online will be shared by default.” 

Watching Netflix instead of working this morning?  Rockin’ out to some Yanni on Spotify?  Your Facebook friends will be aware.  Buy some orthopedic socks on Amazon?  Your friends will see that too. 

Zuckerberg calls it “frictionless sharing” – you won’t have to bother with “choosing” what’s worthy of sharing.  I can already hear privacy advocates yelling about that one, but in most cases these apps allow you to opt in and out of the auto share functionality.

But what if this isn’t a question of privacy at all?  What if it’s a question of people – people and our LOLCats and Judge Alex and natural propensity to completely fill whatever volume of space we are given to occupy? 

Are you sure this is such a great idea, Zuckerberg?  While I’m a tried-and-true believer in “to each his own,” it seems counterintuitive to encourage rampant “share everything” behavior. 

The thing that makes the whole “share” process worth participating in is that somebody else spent at least a moment deciding that I might benefit from, or at least enjoy, the song or video or cheezburger cat or blog or whatever before choosing to do so.  Somebody else making a recommendation that way is meaningful.  Sounds to me like the new Facebook will eliminate that entire dynamic. 

I’m really not looking forward to that kind of a Facebook.  Maybe it’s great if you’re the Netflix or Spotify or Amazon in the equation, but I’m thinking I’ll pass. 

At least I’m not alone in these thoughts. 

A few days ago Tom Anderson (formerly of MySpace, now Google+) wrote on the Google+ blog about the current “vision” for Google+

Google+ encourages our intellectual nature through long form posting (most blogs do this). It promotes the open & empathetic side of our nature …encourages us to post and seek out quality by rewarding people for "shares" and giving visible credit for them. G+ also invites us to be thoughtful of others not just by using the + [name] to recognize them, but also through the concept of circles which makes us think of our audience when we write. That’s what wise people do when they talk — they consider their audience.

Good ol’ Tom wrote again last night about how Facebook’s latest round of changes to the user experience might actually be great for Google+.  He calls for the team developing Google+ to

“dig deep, and think about what they want for humanity. How can this powerful tool be refined to encourage the kind of relationships that will inspire us, behavior we should strive for, and the memories we will treasure?”

Here here, Tom. 

One thought on “Facebook: Why are we here?
  • I agree with you Kate. Zuckerberg has “jumped the shark” with this so-called frictionless (involuntary?) sharing notion. Based on the reaction of the circles I travel in, my guess is that he will kill the golden goose. People will simply abandon their FB accounts once they realize what it all actually means.

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