Facebook has a very unique place in the psyche of the Internet consumer. There is this oddly intense love / hate relationship that almost always ends in submission by the user, acceptance of whatever changes have come down the pike and even the eventual forgetting what the complaining was about in the first place.
Honestly, it’s a bit annoying. Facebook users are starting to sound very much like Google haters. They recognize the importance of the platform and services as they relate to what they do in their lives but seem to want to see the mighty fall in process. I often wonder what would happen if so many Facebook haters got their wish and the service just got up and went away. That would be an interesting day because I suspect not too many of them would be genuinely happy.
I could care less personally about all the clamoring over the latest changes to Facebook. From a pure marketing perspective these changes should be quite useful. How useful (and how difficult to take advantage of) remains to be seen. Oh, if you want to go to the “I have this all figured out within 24 hours of the biggest change in Facebook history crowd” place, go right ahead. It’s a waste of time and a borderline stupid activity though because there is too much yet to know and see to have any real concept as to how these changes will play out in reality.
So rather than sit around and try to predict the future I would like to look at just a few of the reasons why we get so angry with Facebook then just as quickly settle back in with it like any highly dysfunctional relationship. Here are a few ideas I have. Feel free to like or dislike :-).
Mark Zuckerberg is not very likable – While this seems harsh it’s just the truth. While some say he has come a long way in how he presents in public, yesterday’s event harkened back to the flop sweat days of not so long ago. His obvious attempts to emulate Steve Jobs (and very unsuccessfully I might add) are uncomfortable to watch and almost comical. One piece of fashion advice to Mark (and I should NOT be giving anyone this kind of advice but I can’t help it here): If you need to wear a “uniform” make the change to a dark blue shirt so we don’t have to sit and wonder when the sweat will begin to soak through your gray one. It’s a weird game that we are forced to play as you uncomfortably laugh at things that no one else does etc.
Zuckerberg’s public persona is a stumbling block to Facebook’s likability for sure but guess what? He ain’t going away so get used to it and in the end it’s not hurting Facebook’s march toward whatever it is they want.
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Facebook’s level of integration into one’s life bothers many people – The people who complain the loudest when Facebook makes these changes are the ones that have the realization at that moment that Facebook is probably almost TOO important to them. For many (except the much younger set who have literally grown up with this idea of being “friends” is normal) it’s hard to realize that many of your “relationships” are virtual and thus quite limited. This creates a deep seeded frustration that is allowed to come out when someone upsets the Facebook apple cart.
People love to rage against the machine – Facebook has become this huge system that people are assimilated into and there is a natural resistance to a threat to one’s own individuality especially under the guise of it being a place where you can be yourself! How people react to Facebook is becoming very much like how they react to the government. While that may sound bad for Facebook it’s actually good. You see people rage against the government but realize that, in the end, they can little about it other than cast one vote at a time. They complain but they capitulate.
With Facebook it’s the same thing. But a big difference is that powerlessness people feel over something that has a serious level of control on their life can’t even be lessened a bit through some action like having a vote or a voice. Facebook doesn’t really allow for that. That is unless of course you are aware of the 7,000 comment rule at Facebook regarding policy changes (if that even still exists).
When there is little competition there is much more angst – Sure Google+ is tring to ding Facebook’s social media supremacy but let’s face it – it will take A LOT of work and a few minor miracles for the masses to move to Google+. Right now, Google+ is looking like more of a safe haven for the tech cool kids than a real threat to Facebook as a whole. Even when people like Tom Anderson try to put a positive spin on this for Google+ it seems like this is a hill that may not be able to be climbed by anyone. As a result, people feel trapped with Facebook and when people get trapped they complain.
People want this to matter more than it does – I have to chuckle at the almost zealot like response that Facebook changes tend to elicit. The fact is that people are probably placing way too much importance on all of this social networking. People are constantly on a quest for a genuinely important life and the recognition that they are important. That’s hard to find but it now can be much more easily manufactured through things like number of friends and the impression that one is much more popular than they really are. Facebook serves as a way to feel like more people care about each other so when that system is changed or messed with even a bit it really is messing with the life that people have created (but not necessarily lived). This will get people ticked for sure. I still love this commercial as a statement on what is being defined as living these days.
People just want to feel like they matter – By voicing an opinion loudly over something as popular as Facebook people get the feeling that they are important. It’s a misplaced feeling but it is real to them so that’s why they do it.
In the end this love / hate relationship with Facebook is simply a statement about life in the world today. It’s a very busy and loud place where we stress the individual but give that individual few places to be heard and really shine. An artificial environment like Facebook allows for the illusion of importance for many so they naturally tie a bit of their self worth to it. As a result there is passion for the platform because it’s one of the few ways that people feel they can be heard. When they suddenly can’t be heard on their own terms and are forced to change how they are heard based on Facebook’s idea for society, they get upset.
What Facebook knows though (and is banking on) is that Facebook users will get over it and, thus far, that has been true every single time.
Any thoughts on this one?