Over the last 10 years, the internet as a whole has drastically changed the way human beings communicate. Twitter allows us to rapidly share and re-share tidbits of information, Yelp can tell us the exact address and relative quality of the service at a given business, and Reddit aggregates all the funniest, most informative, and most relevant content on the planet to one virtual location. Clearly, Facebook reigns as king of all things on the internet that do neat stuff. However, it has recently suffered a subtle yet widely recognized fall from grace. In trying to do too much, the social networking site has lost most of the value it rolled out of the gates with.
First of all, who said we wanted to know all this information about the people in our lives? Everyone relishes placing well-timed sarcastic comments on a close friend’s status, but pretty much no one cares about photos of their second cousin’s latest adventure in baking. Our newsfeeds are full of Candy Crush high scores, infographics from preachy political fan pages, and whatever crap someone happens to be listening to on Spotify. (OMG you like Mumford and Sons too?) People complain about the ads on Facebook that no one clicks but at least those are targeted by browsing habits to ensure relevance.
However it isn’t just the information that is forced upon us that can be overbearing, it’s the information Facebook allows us to actively seek out. Humblebrag warning: someone once told me they were sitting behind a girl in lecture who spent the entire 90 minutes flipping through photos of me. I don’t consider my photos to be worth that much review and I’m me! Furthermore, anyone who has exited a relationship has made a painful visit to an ex’s Facebook. Someone of your gender posted on their wall? Clearly he/she is one of their many new lovers. Even if your former significant other is ten times as miserable as you, nothing will make you feel like they’re happy and moved on like the human highlight reel that is their Facebook.
This is perhaps the greatest problem of all with the platform. It exaggerates how awesome everyone else’s life seems if only to make you feel worse about your own. When you browse photos of a friend you see them arm in arm with their closest cohorts, leaping off of cliffs into pristine blue water, and eating meals you know they can’t regularly afford. If Facebook was truly accurate to my own lifestyle most of my photos would feature me sitting with a laptop looking disgruntled on my commute to Mountain View. One would think that this constant reminder of how happy the people in our network are would lift our spirits. In practice this phenomena merely leaves users with a case of penis smile envy.
Do you guys remember when Justin Timberlake was telling us all how cool the new MySpace was gonna be? The excitement I felt about the possibility of leaving Facebook behind was amplified by the irony of Timberlake’s recent portrayal of Sean Parker in The Social Network. Unfortunately the new MySpace never made it because, well, it was still MySpace. Google Plus is beautiful, but it’s emptier than a Stark family reunion. All I want is a social network that accurately portrays the lives we lead. Despite it’s best efforts, Facebook doesn’t manager to pull this off. I still appreciate it being there and trying it’s best, but I’m going to whine about it until we leap to the next big thing. Until then, we can all still turn to our list of 1000 virtual friends for comfort.