Since its launch in 2004, Facebook has continued to grow at an incredible rate, connecting millions of people across the world. It is easily the most used social networking site out there, with about 50% of the 900 million users logging in daily. But you already knew all that…for most of us, Facebook is anything but new. On top of that, managing some kind of social profile isn’t new either (remember MySpace?). But when taking a step back, sometimes I scratch my head and wonder, “Why bother with Facebook?”
I figure we might as well start with some reasons why people do use Facebook
- Everybody’s here – Facebook’s user-base is an incredible resource. For example, when getting ready to come to Syracuse University during the summer before freshman year, it was no surprise that I had many questions about life at SU, how the move-in process would work, when schedules would be released, etc. Because of Facebook, I got answers from current staff and students, as well as connected with students who were feeling the same anxiety that I was. This is just my example, but I’m sure that you could think of one on your own.
- Communication made easy – Every time I think about the “Groups” function of Facebook, I say a little thank you to Mark Zuckerberg. I use groups on a daily basis for a variety of reasons: Organizing a pick-up game of soccer, communicating with colleagues, or just having a separate space within Facebook to communicate with certain people.
- Photos – Ah, yes. The beginning and the end of Facebook will always be photos. It’s one of the main attractions of social networking sites and tends to get a lot of attention from users. The “tag” concept has made it easy for photos to be assigned to and show up on their respective profiles.
- Notifications vs. Noise – When you log into Facebook, it’s routine to check your notifications. You’d see that red number and think “oh boy! Maybe I got invited to some event?!” or “I wonder what awesome things my friends have shared with me?!” But that’s not the case anymore, not for me, anyway. Take “Events” as an example. When you get invited to an event (say, a party or something similar), you get a notification. But now it seems like the only events I get invited to read something like this: “New Phone! Need Numbers!” or some random request for you to join a cause. I guess it just feels like there’s too much noise on Facebook, and not enough sound, if you catch my drift
- “Check Facebook“ – There’s a couple factors of Facebook that are both good and bad. One of these is the fact that practically everyone logs in, usually multiple times throughout the week. Similar to my noise complaint (see above), the sheer volume of different things happening is overwhelming. If you don’t log in for three days, the next time you do makes checking notifications feel like checking email. And in more than a few cases, not checking Facebook is why you “didn’t get the memo.” Everyone’s here, so you better be, too.
- Ch-Ch-Changes – This one doesn’t particularly bother me all that much. Many users do, however, become very distraught and annoyed with Facebook’s constant changes, especially when it involves the user interface. If I had a nickel for every status complaining about the “new facebook” or even just “timeline” itself, well, I would have a lot of nickels. With the growth of the company has come more features and many updates, which I don’t find that big of a problem, but it seems to be one of those things that just irks people.
- Privacy – Let’s collectively admit it, privacy online is dead. And I don’t just mean that I can be found easily by Google searching my name, but that Facebook has way too much information about all of us, and I’m not even one of the suspicious folks. You’ve probably heard that select businesses and universities are requesting links to Facebook profiles during the application process. This request is becoming less uncommon everyday. Also troubling was Facebook’s decision to change a user’s listed email to Facebook.com accounts. So if you had your @gmail or @yahoo or any other email address listed as your visible contact email, it would be changed to your email@example.com. The change caused plenty of outcry, not just about the company’s intervention of user profiles, but also because it came too quietly with practically no announcement.
- Facebook Mobile – It’s no secret. Facebook’s mobile platform is simply awful. For such a powerful company and service, it boggles my mind that their mobile apps are so amateur. The mobile market is booming right now, and if Facebook continues at their current pace, they will certainly be run over by new and emerging start-ups.
- “FOMO” – The New York Times released an article in April, 2011, which I encourage you to read. FOMO stands for the “fear of missing out”, which commonly occurs when seeing status updates and photos posted by our friends. We then question the event, wondering “Why wasn’t I there?” or “How come I didn’t even know this was happening?” Sometimes it’s not a specific event that throws us off, but just scrolling through a friend’s profile and noticing how much “better” his or her life appears. Facebook assists in negative social comparison and FOMO, instilling a sense of regret and can weigh heavy on one’s self-esteem.
So what are your feelings on Facebook? What word best describes your experience with the site? Share your thoughts in the comments below.