Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Facebook Angst Brings World to a Stop

As you undoubtedly heard or saw, Facebook made some changes today that are causing worldwide gnashing of teeth and a crisis mentality that seems to be outstripping concerns about war, economic meltdowns, and the global sense of relief that Chaz Bono survived the first round of cuts in Dancing With the Stars.

I admit I have been among those who is reacting to  Facebook changes as if they were the biggest crisis since The Gong Show went off the air around 1980 And believe me, the demise of the Gong Show was a terrible crisis.

The biggest problem I and a lot of other people are having with the new Facebook is friends' posts no longer appear in chronological order.

Instead, they appear in a way that Facebook thinks users would prioritize their incoming messages in order of importance or level of interest.

I  can't speak for everybody, but really, if Facebook thinks they can figure out how my mind works, they're in trouble. Figuring out how my mind works is like determining in precise detail the logic of the thought process in a puppy sufferng from OCD, ADHD and bipolar disorder.

Facebook should just back sloooowwwlly away from my mind and let it wander as it sees fit. Nobody gets hurt that way.

Facebook says this new arrangement will help people who haven't been to their Facebook pages lately and just want to look at the high priority stuff first. Logical enough, but some people, like me, think linearly, so we can process information as it came in.

Here's how Facebook engineer Mark Tonkelowit  put it:  

'When you pick up a newspaper after not reading it for a week, the front page quickly clues you into the most interesting stories. In the past, News Feed hasn't worked like that.  Updates slide down in chronological order so it's tough to zero in on what matters most.  Now, News Feed will act more like your own personal newspaper. You won't have to worry about missing important stuff.'

Fine, but why not give us a choice? Some people can choose the new Facebook system if it works for them, and us weirdos who like things in chronological order can keep doing that.

My suspicion is that Facebook is forcing these changes, rather than giving us options, because advertisers rule. Maybe this new setup will somehow enable marketers to target our interests, so advertisers will flock to Facebook to ensure its profitability.

Look, Facebook is a business, and businesses exist to hopefully make money for owners and investors. Businesses do not owe us free stuff, free of attached strings.

So they have to do stuff that maximizes profits. Which is probably the real reason why these changes went into effect.

Of course, a business has to make changes in a way that doesn't annoy customers to the point where they flee to somewhere else.

In Facebook's case, they can get away with this, despite angering lots of people because they are too big to fail. Not too big to fail like banks during the financial crisis, which would have toppled the global economy if they'd failed.

Failing in Facebook's case might be, say,  losing a quarter of its customers. Which would leave millions of people still with Facebook. Which would mean it would remain a going entity.

This is why I like smaller companies. Big outfits, like airlines for instance, can enact this mishmash of fees that we don't understand and piss us all off, and make us feel cheated because we kind of need the planes to travel. Big outfits can essentially tell us to go pound sand.

Small companies to me seem more willing to work with customers, to make money but at the same time don't bury people in red tape and frustration.

The problem is, a lot of us need Facebook, too. Sure, I can just quit Facebook, but nowadays, when you want to promote yourself or let people know you exist, or build a business, you have to use social media like Facebook or Twitter.

This new Facebook set up annoys me, but it's not like they're demanding my right arm, or that I give up all my worldly possessions and join some Facebook cult.

So, I'll deal with it.  In the grand scheme of things, the Great Facebook Crisis of '11 is about is important as whether Charlie Sheen can revive his career.

In other words, I doubt I'll lose much sleep over this.  Unless I'm up all night trying to figure out how to see Facebook posts from friends I want to connect with.

Analysts have said that by doing this it will give Facebook even more data about its users and enable them to target adverts with greater precision than they can now.

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