Friends, and you are my “friends:” I’m giving up on Facebook. No more status updates, no more vacation photos, no more links to interesting columns (even those I haven’t written). While I’ll leave what I’ve posted over the past eight years up for now, I will no longer participate in what has become a time-wasting farce.
Why? Facebook no longer delivers on its core value proposition: to let me quickly and easily see status updates from my friends.
In fact, Facebook has deliberately moved away from that original value for its consumers by automatically presenting its News Feed in a “top stories” order and, if one remembers to select “most recent stories” (which will automatically default back to “top stories” at some mysterious Facebook-specified point), displays them in not the promised “most recent stories” sequence, but in a bizarre and unstated most-recent-activity-on-stories order. Meaning comments on friends’ status updates by people I don’t know override more recent status updates by people I do know.
And that’s on the full web interface. The mobile and Android app interfaces are even harder to navigate and customize.
As a result, I miss timely and important personal updates as they’re pushed down by yet another inane comment on a shared promoted commercial image. Still another Facebook algorithm only shows certain of my updates to my friends, if any, apparently based on their interactions with me over time. (That’s why many didn’t know a close family member had surgery this week, a development leading to a pause in my consulting and column writing that no algorithm should be allowed to judge the importance of.)
Instead of keeping its eye on why people flocked to it in the first place, Facebook seems to have put more effort into privacy controls, which is good, and image-based distractions like video clips and larger images, which is bad. Bad because the latter obfuscate text-based status updates that might actually convey real information.
For a long time, the benefit (and the guilt-based rationale of “I really need to be active on Facebook if I’m to be considered digitally savvy”) outweighed the interface frustration and outright manipulation. No longer. Staying in touch with my distributed family and personal friends is what remains appealing about Facebook, but doing so means increasingly hurdling the obstacles Facebook puts in place to appeal to its paying friends — brands. Any semblance of balance is gone. As long as the tilt is away from usability, I’ll be gone, too.
It’s been repeatedly said about Facebook and other social media or free digital services that if people aren’t paying for the product, they are the product. However, even a consumer of the free expects to be given what’s promised. Facebook is failing. It has lost sight of its core deliverable. Its brand promise has been sacrificed for promises to its brands.
This head of cattle is leaving the barn before he’s driven to the chute. Which you, of course, as a Facebook friend, would never hear about either.
Frank Catalano (@FrankCatalano) is an independent industry consultant, author and veteran analyst of digital education and consumer technologies whose regular GeekWire columns take a practical nerd’s approach to tech. Yes, a version of this rant also is posted on Facebook. But his family and friends may have a higher likelihood of seeing it here.