Facebook is the fourth — sometimes the fifth — social network I check during the day. It’s at the bottom of the list.
Somewhere along the line, Facebook became a last resort, a platform I regretfully open when I’ve hit the depths of boredom. When my friend is running 20 minutes late for brunch, only after I’ve logged my weekly call with Grandma and checked every other app.
I’d rather strike up a conversation with a stranger than browse Facebook — and I live in New York. Strangers are weird here.
Don’t get me wrong. Facebook itself is not boring. On the contrary, I could and have spent hours exploring all the tools Facebook offers: Facebook Subscribe, Facebook Lists, Facebook Groups, Facebook Shared Photo Albums, Facebook Pages, Facebook Gifts, Facebook Graph Search. And I haven’t even mentioned the thousands of apps that “enrich” the Facebook experience.
Ironically, these very products (specifically, their sheer quantity) have rendered Facebook overwrought and clunky, unlike Instagram, which showcases beautiful photography, or Vine, which shares content in six-second videos. I challenge you to tell me what Facebook does. Keep in mind I don’t have all day.
Facebook tries to accomplish too many things. The social network ended up diversifying user content so much that it lost focus. What used to be a “place for friends” is now a circus of photography, video, news, blogging, curation, instant messaging, entertainment, networking and advertising.
We’ve exited the friend zone.
Let’s compare Facebook to the Walmart Supercenter. Both are designed to keep you inside as long as possible, convenience be damned. You walk inside a Walmart and encounter bin upon bin of school supplies, alongside running shoes, alongside gallons of milk. In theory, it’s a one-stop-shop, but the sheer volume and variety create chaos. A shopping trip becomes an event you have to plan. You need a map to track down everything, and just when you think you’ve gotten the hang of it, Walmart moves the sports equipment to the other side of the store.
Most other major social networks offer a more specialized experience. I go on Twitter to catch up on world events; I send Snapchats of insignificant moments that don’t deserve a photo filter. I go on Facebook because I’m bored, hoping one out of every 10 pieces of content will have some relevance to my life.
When I log on to Facebook, I have no idea what I’m going to find — and not in a good way. It’s like window shopping on a block that sells Prada shoes alongside hunting rifles.
You might think I have an eclectic group of friends. But I assure you it’s not the content that’s schizophrenic; it’s the way Facebook packages and arranges said content. A TIME article about shark finning sits above a Sponsored Post alerting me my high school classmate who I haven’t spoken to in eight years has Liked a greeting card Page.
That’s Facebook’s algorithm at work.
If I sort my News Feed by most recent, it’s not much different. Here’s the order of posts, by type of content:
Suggested Post (ad for a coffee machine, when I don’t even drink caffeine)
Notification about how many friends have posted on a friend’s Timeline for her birthday
Status update: link to an ecommerce site
Status update: the old-school version, with just text
Notification that someone has updated his cover photo
I know what you’re arguing: “That’s what Facebook’s curation tools are for! You can filter what content appears in your News Feed by friend list! It’s really fun, because you can obsessively compartmentalize your friends into any number of groups and sub-groups and super-duper-sub-groups!”
I tried that for awhile. Then I failed. If you have a full-time job or any life at all beyond the web, I’m willing to bet organizing Facebook Lists, Groups and granular privacy settings doesn’t get you hot. Case in point, 13 million Facebook users have never touched their privacy settings.
If you’re like me, maybe you occasionally attempt to revamp your lists and tailor your News Feed. Then you start grinding your elbows into the desk and tearing out your ponytail.
Try and remember the last time you actually had fun on Facebook. I’ll tell you mine: Undergrad 2006, Halloween, Facebook stalking the cute boys we had met the night before. We rolled with shrieking laughter on dingy couches and stained carpets, reviewing the embarrassing drunk status updates (“Steven is flip cup bamf back th fck off”), uploading 65 photos from our digital cameras to photo albums we titled with inside jokes (“Are my argyles showing?”).
And that’s pretty much what Facebook was: a portal for getting to know people. But now? My challenge still stands. Tell me what Facebook does today.
It’s not a source of fun anymore. I feel guilty when I log on, because I know I’ve hit boredom rock bottom. It’s a similar feeling to binge-watching Scandal on a beautiful Saturday. The difference is Scandal is still entertaining.
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Mashable composite. Image: iStockphoto, CSA-Images