Images from the Internet
Social critic (do not call him a social scientist!) Neil Postman famously stated that “New technology is a kind of Faustian bargain. It always gives us something, but it always takes away something important.” This is markedly true when it comes to Social Media.
The obvious direction I could delve into is the dichotomy of Social Media’s tendency towards helping us connect with many more people, while keeping us isolated on the computer. That, however, is not the objective for this discussion… okay, rant.
Social Media is used by the multitudes that rely on it to connect through text and / or images in two directions: we learn what others are thinking and doing by reading their input, and we inform our own impressions by what we decide to contribute to the zeitgeist. And yet, the companies who run these media want to think they know what we want. Rather than asking the clients what they need, however, these companies insist their wills upon those who do not want it. But, as Patti Smith once said, “People have the power,” and in some instances, the people win.
Before long, non-musicians were utilizing MySpace as a way to connect with others, share images, music, and even bond whose that impart similar tastes. As time went on, the site itself became a bit bloated, and with people using large wallpapers, attachments, and music inserts, resulting in pages taking ever longer to load. In a smart move, MySpace gave an option for a stripped down version to see others’ pages, which again made viewing enjoyable and easy to fly from one page to the next and making it possible to ignore unwanted digital baggage..
MySpace soared and seemed to become self-important to those behind the scene. They decided to change the way images were viewed, one at a time, and smaller than had been previously. Also, photo albums became more fluid, and it was hard to tell when you were in one collection or another. This was frustrating to the users. Then MySpace made the fatal “tough nuggies” error of taking away the choice of how the page loads. It became slower than ever, which drove its participants away. Despite protests, they kept the format, and the viewers started to give up, and indirectly led them to the newly emergent Facebook. If the timing had been different, Facebook may not exist anymore; Facebook was not as much a magnet as MySpace drove its audience away. Oh, MySpace still exists – go on and check, even though you probably haven’t been there in years now – but it is back to being a center for musicians; it is the only reason I still have an account, which I go to about three times per year. It used to be every day.
Facebook used to be fun, going down the list to see notices from others. It was addicting, though other media such as Twitter interfered with the zeitgeist and turned it from an events and interest driven channel into a brief “I’m standing on line at the bank” style of messaging. But this was a user-end issue, rather than management. But that changed after a few “tweaks” from the Facebook administrators. First they separated what they judged was important and not as essential information. There were protests, but it just meant taking more time to go through two sets of listings that were stacked. Life went on. Then Facebook quietly announced that all the photos on the site were their property to do as they liked, including using them in advertisements, without needing to ask permission. People balked, and now it’s a choice, if you know the selection is even there. Following this, they started making addresses and phone numbers easily available to any participant in the site. Again, after some rumbling, they made it harder to do so, but only if the subscriber knew to go to a specific place and then change the default.
But then, they did something so egregious, that it raised a bigger cry, which they call the Timeline. This was not an option, but a systemic change to the very basic viewing medium that a huge majority of Facebookers did not like. Like callous and thoughtless cads, they shot their own foot, as it were, by doing this just before the IPO went public. The dislike of this new format was so wide, the stock crashed almost as soon as it was offered, and has never recovered. Odds are it never will, because Facebook’s attitude is “Fuck you, get used to it.”
Why is the Timeline so bad? There are a number of reasons. One example is the Timeline is split into two columns, so to read them you must roll up and down the page. And if you tell it to go back further in time, the columns change so you have to go back up and down. It would much easier to be able to go unidirectional rather than rolling back and forth, which is hard on the hand, wrist and eyes. Another is that the columns are too narrow for the content, especially if images are involved. The edges get cut off on either side, so unless you click into it, it is usually unreadable. This takes unnecessary time, and again, is that much more pressure to click-click-click. These two alone make the use of Facebook from an easy and enjoyable experience, to a confusing mess of work.
Then there is the “Map of where you’ve been” that can’t be turned off, and privacy settings that are confusing if you don’t know where to look. Fortunately for Facebook, there is no other outlet on which to jump, as people did after MySpace. Google+ tried, but failed due to the same top-heavy interference leading to indifference. But Mark Zuckerburg (I now call him either Zukerputz or Schmuckerburg) is indifferent to the hew and cry of the crowd, I believe because of either a) he has his money and just does not care, or b) he is no longer in control of the company since it has gone public (initially $38.00 per share on May 2012, which crashed and is now up to only $26.12 as of closing on Nov 27, 2012, after averaging for a long time around $18.00). The reason for this drop, I believe, is lack of confidence due to the Timeline. Also doing damage is that there is once again a push by management to tell the reader what is important by putting posts from others indiscriminately into another area, without input from those either sending or receiving the text. While doing this, the ads have become bigger, taking up more space on the page. Ugh.
People are leaving Facebook faster every day, begin given more reasons to do so. About once a month I go through my Friends list, and more and more of them are no longer there. I used to go every day, and now it is more occasional. Perhaps it’s better, because I’ve been more productive as a result of it, such as this article.
site, is to be razed and will disappear on December 1, 2012, as I was informed the second week of November, a mere two weeks before buh-bye, tough nuggies. There simply is no accountability by anyone at Threefold, and no asking if this is what we want.
So, Neil Postman was partly right: Social Media is a Faustian Bargain; however, there is another layer of the Powers That Be giveth and the Powers That Be taketh it away through change. Or in this case, unwanted updates. It’s not as much as “fix it” if it ain’t broke, it’s a matter of disrespect to those who use the services.
Perhaps it is going to take the coming of a Howard Beale character to tell these companies that we are mad as hell, and we aren’t going to take it any more.