Facebook: Quick Thoughts

It amazes me that as a tech savvy person that I’m not as social as I could be. There are so many networks out there, and I find other than dabbling in Google+ and Twitter, I pretty much only maintain my Facebook account.

It made me question a few things:

  • What do I like about Facebook?
  • Why do I keep coming back?
  • Have the changes Facebook has made had any impact on my usage?

Of course the simple answer that is often spouted by other savvy people is that other services just haven’t reached their critical mass, or that they are missing some killer feature that keeps Facebook at the top of the social media sites, but I think it is a more complex system that holds us all to the site.

In many ways, Google+ and Facebook are the same, you can find friends and colleagues, add them as people you want to interact with, share pictures, play games, and push out information about your life. Google+ has a more simplistic design and is integrated with other services that people use, but as much as they are increasing their numbers quite quickly, I don’t feel that they’ll get to Facebook levels of success with their social platform.

This is not Google’s first attempt at a Facebook competitor, and while I do believe it is their most complete and interesting offering, it still feels like it is missing something that Facebook has.

Maybe the slightly more unprofessional design on Facebook makes people feel safe, as though Facebook isn’t a real business. Maybe people feel they are getting more out of having a Facebook account than Facebook the company is getting from their data. At the end of the day, people still keep coming back to Facebook in droves, despite hearing how frustrated they are with all the changes in features and design, or how tired they are of managing their friend lists and liking various things. The most interesting thing is how little this has changed my browsing habits. They could make nearly any change, and while it is frustrating to have to re-learn how to interact on a website with my friends and family, the barriers usually come with a reward of increased service and functionality that counteracts the aspects that suck enough for me to stay put and not push everyone to run with me to Google+ or Twitter.

Facebook is getting ready for its IPO, and there are still so many unanswered questions about the direction the service will take with the public data. We already know they are selling ads against the data we’ve added, allowing advertisers to really narrow down their ad expenditure and use our circle of friends to vet certain ads in a way that we haven’t really seen anywhere else.

The Internet has a short attention span though, and much like Myspace, could Facebook be replaced? I don’t yet think so. The advantage for me that Facebook seems to have is the breadth of contacts it contains. It wasn’t just my high school friends, but my family, business contacts and more. They are adverse to change, not very tech savvy, and as such, I doubt I’ll be able to move them all over to the new and better network that is sure to come out at some point. They’ll hold onto their Facebook account as long as they receive the same kind of ability to connect to a vast number of people that they know.

So many people now are using Facebook as their primary point of contact, and Facebook as a company knows this and will continue to try to promote it. In some ways, it reminds me of the old AOL browser. Everything you’ll want will eventually be framed by Facebook. You want to play games, talk to your friends, share photos, plan events, and share your interests with a group of like-minded people? You can already do all of those things on Facebook.

I would love to cut myself off from Facebook. I want to be one of those “cool” Internet people that have moved on to the “greener” pastures of Google+, but as long as my Mom, Dad and Grandma are on Facebook, I’ll have to keep my account.

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