It took quite a bit longer than I expected or predicted, but Facebook is becoming just as adolescent and annoying as Myspace did before I left it. And its not a matter of who is on my Facebook friends list, but more to do with the changes Facebook has been making. Their new features are encouraging users to become more annoying while simultaneously emphasizing their new annoyances on my feed. From the new activity ticker with specialized activity labels, to automatic posting from affiliates just for reading an article, to the ridiculous new emphasis on sharing everything, to the constant checkin notifications.
Honestly the activity ticker has so much potential and at times is already useful. Its nice to have instant information only available while I’m looking. Its almost perfect. But its ruined with the extra crap thrown in and more important with the same crap being stuffed into my feed. And I’m not sure how the Top Story system is calculated but it couldn’t choose more opposite posts from what I find important. And thus I find myself weeding through pages of recent updates if I ever feel like I need to catch up with friends. The ideal system would be a Top Stories section that at least semi accurately curates my feed for the information I find important, a Recent Stories section I can dig into for information that isn’t actually important, and an Activity Ticker that shows a steady stream of instant interaction while I’m currently logged on. This would tie together my mid day checks for info, my late day checks for time wasting, and my late night boredom in-between chat messages. I’d be on almost all day without knowing it rather than the current situation where its a chore I avoid. They should focus on giving me the right information when I need it. Invisible until needed.
Sharing is getting ridiculous. I can tell you if I’m not friends with someone, I’d rather not see there posts. Yet the new sharing system encourages more people to share posts while I’m forced to see friend-of-friend posts in my feed. Bravo to them for letting me hide posts by users, pages, and groups but I feel like I’m on constant cleanup patrol anytime I logon. I see X read this article on Yahoo in my Top Stories. I see X listened to Skrillex in my Top Stories. This information isn’t worthless but it belongs in the activity ticker out of my way. The problem here is Facebook is viewing sharing as a way to expand their influence and draw more people through their web. They are becoming the mother of all middle men. Sharing is great and more important than ever on the internet. But Facebook needs to approach it as a service to broaden users horizons rather than roping in more page views. It should be an invisible layer allowing users to see what their friends are interested in without it being thrown in their face and paraded as top news.
And the latest annoyance is from Zynga’s Words with Friends integration. Before I could ask a Facebook friend to play through the iOS app and it would start nice and easy. When they made their move I’d get a clean notification on my phone from the app and upon tapping be taken straight to my game. Now I get extra notifications from Facebook in the app, on the website, in my feed, etc. and whats worse when I tap/click it, I’m taken to Facebook not the game I actually want to play. And short of blocking the app all together I can’t block the notifications. And if I ignore it and just go straight to the app myself I’m left with a glaring red badge on my home screen tricking me into thinking some cute girl has left me a Facebook message only to find its Zynga telling me I had a Words with Friends move hours ago I’ve already made. I understand and like the Facebook integration. I love that I can get on Facebook in safari and play the same game I started on my iPhone. But yet again Facebook is shoving information in my face I don’t need and don’t care about. Perhaps the notification should only show on the website and not be pushing to my devices. Just like Messages aren’t shown on the website or pushed to my device when I’m currently on one or the other. Again invisible until needed.
To Facebook’s defense so far no one has gotten location and checkins right. But once again Facebook seems to only see it as a marketing strategy to get people addicted to checking in so they can sell that information to businesses. Again they’ve missed the opportunity for an invisible layer using the devices we keep with us more than ever. When before Facebook and Foursquare did we actively call all our friends and tell them we just arrived at McDonalds and plan to eat a big mac. I think location information is the most important tech break through since the internet and they’re squandering it on 10% off a pair of Jeans at American Eagle if you like their page, checkin to their store, and at least in my case block all future notifications from them. All this just so your Facebook friends will be forced to see you bought a pair of American Eagle jeans and hopefully will be so overcome with my obviously important patronage to go buy all their clothes from American Eagle too. I think the only people who actually care where you’ve checked in are the stalkers and creepers who used to have to put in serious work to know where you are that now get it for free.
Facebook is stretching its tentacles into my life trying make sure I never leave. What they don’t understand is in their quest to make Facebook and my life seamless, they are actually driving me away with constant annoyance and informational overload. If they want to be the social platform of the entire world, then they need to remember their role is to be the underlying layer connecting the world not an overlying blanket snuffing it out. I made friends before Facebook, I shared my interests with them before Facebook, I went to American Eagle before Facebook, I showed off pictures before Facebook. What I didn’t have before Facebook was constant contact with all of my friends at all times. Its an incredible thing. But its about to be buried with the rest of histories failed implementations if it doesn’t remember its just a platform, just a tool. Extend the social network I already have, streamline the interactions I already perform, expand the information I already share, and remain invisible.