RIP Facebook: network's glory days are history
I used to love Facebook.
I first joined it when I was in the thick of high school, some time during 2008 or 2009. I actually didn’t even create my account — a friend made it for me because even back then “everyone” had a Facebook. It was only a matter of time until I was hooked.
It was exhilarating to connect to a huge network of people so easily. Being able to share a link or photo or pithy status update to hundreds of my friends and submit it for discussion was exciting.
Back then, it felt like Facebook was about friendship. We commented on posts and tagged each other without fearing a future boss seeing it. It was about connecting with each other, a place to hang out with your friends whenever you wanted to.
But all good things come to an end. That’s not to say Facebook is at its end — just that the golden days are over. My news feed now is a far cry from what it was when I first joined it. Now it’s filled with sponsored posts and brands and “You Won’t Believe What Happens Next!”
The Facebook news feed has become a limbo, a hellhole of links that exists only for you to get bored and click on the next thing and get bored and click on the next thing.
Why? Facebook went public in 2012. That means that unlike the early days, now investors have expectations of income — and that means ads.
Algorithms, not the order content is posted, drives the news feed. These algorithms track your movements online to better target advertisements.
Facebook has gone as far as altering user’s news feeds without their consent: Facebook altered the feeds of nearly 700,000 users in 2012 for a psychology experiment.
According to a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the experiment intended to discover how positivity and negativity travels through online social networks, eventually coming to the stoic conclusion that in-person interaction and nonverbal cues are not necessary for emotions to spread.
While Facebook claims the experiment was scientific in nature, it could — and probably would — eventually put that science into practice.
When you sign up for Facebook, the terms and conditions lay out the deal: You get to use their platform, but you also have to follow their rules. When you skip to the bottom of that intimidating contract and press “accept,” you sign away your virtual soul.
You don’t pay for Facebook. If you don’t pay for a product, are you the product?
What I find appalling, though, is despite all the changes Facebook has undergone, I can’t give it up. It’s still too damn useful. For me, it’s like 21st century white pages.
Facebook Messenger’s app has faced controversy for it being separated from the main app, but still wins over GroupMe, WhatsApp and even iMessage because almost everyone is on it. Being able to meet someone and then search for their name is much easier than the inconvenient “let’s trade phone numbers” dance.
I rarely use Facebook now. I do miss using it like I used to, but Twitter is better for following up-to-the-minute news and finding things worth reading, and Snapchat and Facebook-owned Instagram are building new ways to keep up with friends.
Twitter could be the next to fall for Facebook’s pay structure. I’ve started to see advertisements in my timeline, and the Discover tab, which is bent on helping you find new content sandwiched between ads, makes it pretty clear that Twitter is taking their November 2013 seriously.
The new, invite-only social network Ello shows some promise. I love the idea of separating your feed into friends and noise, but it’s too early to say if it will catch on.
They proudly declare that they’re “ad-free,” but some reports claim their venture capital funding will push them in another direction.
Snapchat remains my favorite way to communicate with friends. It understands the way we communicate face-to-face better than any other social network.
I enjoy the new Our Story feature, which allows Snapchat users attending large events create a curated chain of photos and videos. Every “story” I’ve watched has made me wish I were there to experience it.
Facebook is still around and probably will be for a while, but it’s a different beast. New social networks have popped up since the good old days. This is only the beginning for social networks, though. Things change very quickly in this space — the future is full of exciting new possibilities.
Tyler Gold is a senior in the School of Communication and Information — follow him on Twitter @tylergold for tech updates.