Once upon a time, Facebook was a happy place. Friends shared cute photos of their kids or their pets. People wrote witty little observations or mini-stories in 100 words or less. Occasionally, someone would ask for a restaurant recommendation. Maybe they would explain why they liked a certain movie or song. The response among friends would be instantaneous and usually thoughtful. Unlike Twitter, Facebook was truly interactive. Reactions and conversations fueled Facebook’s growing appeal.
That was a long time ago. Today, Facebook is like a once-thriving neighborhood now littered with payday loan stores, political campaign signs and ugly billboards. The sidewalks that were once filled with friendly pedestrians are mostly vacant. Neighbors don’t venture outside to talk to one another much anymore.
I’ve come up with a top 10 list of things I dislike about Facebook mostly because lists seem to be the only way we can communicate and process information these days. Maybe you will agree with some of my observations. Some of them you will certainly find to be cranky and old man-ish. Anyway, here they are–10 Amazing Reasons Why Facebook Sucks:
#1. Personal Branding. Participating on Facebook has become less about sharing information and more about managing your own personal brand. I’m as guilty of this as anyone and probably more than most. The past several months, I have been using Facebook to promote my novel to an extent that even I am now tired of writing about it (it is delightful book, by the way). Even if I didn’t have a product to pitch, I would still probably spend way too much time thinking about my Facebook persona. A few weeks ago, Father’s Day rolled around and I felt this strange obligation to post something about the holiday. Why would I feel that was an important thing to do? It’s not like I’m paid to write about Father’s Day, or that anyone beyond a dozen people would care about my thoughts on the occasion. Ten years ago, I would not have considered sending out a blast email to all of my friends and contacts about Father’s Day. Why do I feel pressured to do so now, to compete against other peoples’ personal brands with my own Father’s Day post? It doesn’t seem healthy.
#2. Advertising. It is no big revelation that Facebook uses your personal data to sell you things. This was first revolutionized by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, when he used bookselling as a tool to learn peoples’ personal tastes and how to market to them. Facebook is just following suit. Still, it is irritating to scroll through my news feed and see one ad after another for the Dollar Shave Club. I don’t go to Facebook to buy stuff. I want to find out what my friends are doing.
#3. Politics. Hey, friend who used to write amusing posts about his family, sports and pop culture–I get it. You hate the Republicans. They’re destroying the country. I may agree with you on most points but that doesn’t mean I want to read every single article you share from The Huffington Post, Politico or MSNBC. I’ve got news for you, political friend. You are talking to the same circle of agreeable buddies while everyone else has tuned you out. You have not changed anyone’s mind about the important political issues of the day.
#4. Shares. It seems to me that most of us on Facebook have migrated from writing original posts to just sharing news articles, memes or surveys that we find amusing. Now, we can even share streaming videos that stream whether the viewer wants them to or not. The result is a visual cluster with no rhyme or reason. Just glancing at my feed right now, I see “29 Terrifying Panorama Fails That Will Haunt Your Nightmares,” a meme about getting up when life knocks you down, an ad about paying off my mortgage and “26 Struggles Anyone Raised Catholic Will Totally Understand.” Some days, finding a text post in your news feed that actually tells you what somebody is doing with their life is like discovering a rare, precious jewel.
#5. Misinformation. I was guilty of this the other day. I shared a piece about how much time people spend on their phones that was, upon closer examination, probably made up. I’ve also seen a quote about funding for the arts attributed to Winston Churchill that he never said. There is a lot of bogus stuff on the Internet, and we all get fooled every now and then. Lately, however, I’ve noticed “friends” trying to trick each other with misinformation. For example, an article about a celebrity death that you click on only to find the headline, “You been owned!” Shame on me for having a morbid curiosity about one of the stars of The Walking Dead, I guess.
#6. Narcissism. This one is nothing new. Facebook and other social media have made all of us more narcissistic. Still, I believe that the problem is evolving from “self-absorbed” to “totally lacking in self-awareness.” Yes, you may be a good friend, but that doesn’t mean I want to be updated four times a day about your latest adventures in Cancun. It just makes me jealous. Also, sometimes it’s a little irritating to be part of a mass layoff from a company you worked at for eight years, and then read posts from your former co-workers gushing about how cool it is to work for that company. That’s my bad, of course. I don’t have to read those posts and, in the future, I won’t be friending as many co-workers on Facebook.
#7. Unoriginal Narcissism. Back when everyone got digital cameras on their phones, some people truly believed that the quality of experimental photography would explode. What we’ve gotten, instead, is people taking the same damn types of pictures as everyone else, in addition to a gluttony of photo-bombs and selfies. I really don’t care to see your feet, even if they are landscaped against a beautiful Caribbean beach. That photo has been done a million times before. The only feet I really care about seeing belong to my wife and my child, and that’s it.
#8. Anger and Negativity. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to use social media to complain about your problems, take shots at a former spouse or cuss about that stupid thing Obama did. I just think it reflects poorly on a person’s character (just like writing a 1,300-word screed about Facebook probably reflects poorly on my character). It is also important to note that those comments never really go away. Even if you delete them, which Facebook now allows, those posts are floating out there somewhere. Someday, your angry vents on Facebook may work against you. Also, if negativity becomes an important part of your personal brand (see #1 above), even your friends will stop reading and caring.
#9. Meddling. Based on what you share and with whom you interact, Facebook thinks it knows you better than you know yourself. That is why only certain friends, products and stories keep showing up in your news feed. Eventually this can become a form of mind control. If I haven’t interacted with my friend George for six months, his updates and shares will disappear from my feed. Since I never see anything from George, I assume he is no longer active on Facebook. Pretty soon, I stop thinking about George because, unless I look up his profile, I am not connected to his life. Ultimately it’s my fault for not picking up the phone and giving George a call, but Facebook still plays a subtle part in bringing us closer to some friends and distancing us from others. That power over what and who we care about is frightening.
So there you have it—-nine reasons why Facebook definitely sucks. Wait, did I say there were 10 reasons? Well, I can’t think of a 10th reason.
I guess Facebook really isn’t so bad after all.
Stephen Roth is author of the humorous novel, A Plot for Pridemore. Be sure to “like” his author fan page at https://www.facebook.com/StephenRothWriter