Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Top Story: Facebook plays mind games with its users.

Status Update: The only constant is change. It’s not only an axiom that holds true, it’s one that seems to be wholeheartedly embraced by Facebook. You know that bank commercial where some guy wakes up one morning and goes into the kitchen and finds a strange woman and two girls he’s never met and he asks “where’s my family”, and the woman responds that they’ve replaced them and he replies “but I liked my old family” and she retorts “we’re your family now”? It’s kinda like that. 

I liked my old settings…not that I had enough time to “like” them per se as it seems that in less time than it takes to switch a light bulb some new setting on Facebook is added or altered. In some cases, its unnoticeable; in others, such as the most recent update launched this date, it's more frustrating to navigate than the LA Freeway without benefit of a map or GPS and as incomprehensible as Jersey Shore’s popularity. Not to mention the outrage I feel (and believe I’m not alone in) when I check in to find myself in another cyber landscape. It’s like I’ve gone to bed in Miami and then woke up in Honolulu (well, can’t say that would necessarily be a bad thing…).

But how much of my page really is my page? After all, the need-an-attorney-to-decipher terms and conditions in a nutshell states that it’s the property of Facebook and that anything you put up on it becomes part of Facebook in perpetuity (the recent scandal regarding the inability to completely wipe one’s page and its contents from the Facebook servers is proof of that). In fact, Facebook has the ability to delete a page without notice or explanation. It’s only “yours” in the sense that you can post on it.

Which means that Facebook can play with its settings to its heart’s content. And, as its own entity, it has that right. The problem comes when those changes affect the way its users enjoy their Facebook experience and, to go by many of the posts that are made once a new change is effected, that enjoyment diminishes. Ease of use is a major factor with any medium or item. The easier it is to use, the more likely and consistent that usage becomes. Each subsequent change seemingly begets frustration and, in a couple of reported cases, security issues (such as the recent “Instant Personalization”, the automatically enabled feature that shared data with non-Facebook sites).

Now, the nature of life is change and in it’s own weird way Facebook, millions strong, has almost become a living entity onto itself in the same way that a corporation is a “person” as asserted by a certain Republican presidential hopeful (which has its own can of worms, but I digress). It will change and evolve…or not…as it is the nature of things. Think of Zuckerburg as George Lucas and Facebook is his “Star Wars”. The page is tweaked and re-tweaked as is each subsequent video release of the “Star Wars” films. However, each subsequent alteration brings out a collective “Nnnnnnnoooooooooooo” from their respective fandom, begetting more ire than welcome.

Facebook supplanted MySpace as the premier social networking site (just Google “does anyone use MySpace anymore" if you require proof). It is referenced in television, films (one of which was a film about its origins) and print. Businesses advertise on it, going so far as to create their own pages for marketing to the extent that you can log into other non-Facebook accounts with your Facebook log-in. It’s fast on its way to becoming as necessary a tool for communication as a telephone. It’s infused itself not only in the American consciousness but the world’s as well. For a long time it has been a social networking monopoly and when monopolies exist, well, let’s just say that choice is not an option. But there are options now. Google + has made its way on the scene and by all accounts is attempting to make its own site as user friendly as possible. Other web companies such as Yahoo are attempting their own forays into the social networking scene. In other words, there is no need for one to stay with Facebook if it’s no longer suiting one’s purpose. There are options and there will be more. Competition is a good thing.

So bear this in mind the next time you decide to incorporate a massive change to the way one views Facebook, Mr. Zuckerberg: How about a feature that asks a user whether or not they want changes enabled without review and having the option of whether or not to implement it? And don’t present the illusion of choice; instead let people retain their ability to choose. To change a person’s settings without their permission is insulting, implying that Facebook does not value them and obviates their power of choice as immaterial. It’s all about choice. Choice is one of the ideological foundations of this country. Remember, an American Revolution took place because the power of choice was taken away. Keep this up and a social network revolution will be underway.

Paul Anthony Llossas “likes” this.


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