When I first signed up for Facebook in 2004, it was an invitation-only service for select colleges. My college was one of the first on the list. I thought it was an exclusive club only the cool people knew about. I guess, at that point, it was. A few years down the road, they decided to add high schools to the service. I thought it was terrible decision at the time, but it didn’t really affect me, so whatever. Then the inevitable happened: they allowed everyone to join the service. It turns out we were pretty much just the beta testers. College-aged, computer-toting people who helped Facebook work out the bugs in Facebook.
Both of those transitions bothered me at the time, but I still used Facebook for everything. What really drove me nuts were the changes to the news feed a couple years back. Now that I know more about Facebook and how it works, I can tell you what’s going on. They think they’re helping you. They want to make sure you’re seeing updates from the people you like the most. To do that, they slowly removed people from your news feed if you didn’t interact with them regularly.
The news feed is so disgustingly broken that I turned it off completely. I wasn’t getting the updates from people I wanted to see, and I was getting updates from people I didn’t want to see all the time. I even tried to add some of my friends to different groups with different notifications. Nothing worked. Eventually, I just gave up and unfollowed all my friends (sorry, friends).
That’s how I use Facebook at this point. I don’t follow anyone or anything. If you’ve thought about giving up on Facebook, I’d encourage you to do the same. It allows you to stay active without getting overwhelmed. You’ll use Facebook less but still have access to it when you need it. Obviously, you’ll want to keep following eciov — because we’re awesome. We’re available on other social networks too.
It’s been a decent experience overall, but it had a few unexpected side effects. I missed the death of a childhood friend. We weren’t very close over the last few years, but I would’ve gone to his funeral had I known. With the current state of the news feed, I have no idea if I would’ve seen anything about his death even if I followed him. The algorithm is so broken that I never saw anything I wanted to see anyway.
On the plus side, Facebook has no idea how to serve me ads. I don’t follow anything, so their algorithms are completely baffled. Don’t want to see ads on Facebook? Don’t follow anyone. Side effects include: social suicide, outcast syndrome, and ignorance. Your mileage may vary. Solitude is not available in all 50 states. All joking aside, it’s interesting to know that Facebook’s ads are so heavily reliant on your activity. I assumed they would have some sort of backup ad program–general ads they show to everyone. As far as I can tell that doesn’t exist. I haven’t seen a news feed ad on Facebook in months.
I also have to explain to my IRL (in real life) friends that I don’t see their Facebook updates even though I still share things with Facebook. That’s super awkward. “So you post things, but you don’t see what anyone else posts?” Eventually, they understand and sympathize with my problem. I have plenty of friends who I Facebook-stalk because they interact with me. I just do it the old fashioned way: I look at their profiles (omg, crazy, right?). It’s still strange to have real friends you don’t really know because you’re not following them on Facebook. They think that putting it on Facebook ends the conversation; they never have to mention it IRL again. That’s a bit of a bummer because I never know what’s going on unless they use Twitter too.
At this point, Twitter doesn’t touch your feed, but I’ve heard rumors of them messing with that as well. No, thank you. I like my feed as it is. I have multiple Twitter accounts for different areas of my life: work, personal, public personal, etc. It’s super easy to manage that with an app like Tweetbot. I love Paul, Mark, and Todd’s work at Tapbots. They are the reason I started using Twitter regularly. Point being: Twitter is simple and straightforward — no extra crap. But let’s be honest, we’re sharing from Instagram now anyway. Amiright? Guys?
11 years and a month after the launch of Facebook, I’m not really using it because it sucks at news feed curation. I wish it worked properly. I’d really like to know what’s going on with my friends, but I can’t stand what they did to the news feed. Maybe they’ll figure it out eventually. I want a way for me to see important updates from my friends — by like or comment totals. It just doesn’t work well enough for me to care any more. Until then, I hope that more of my friends find me on Twitter.
Image by Katie Sayer via flickr