Likes labours lost: You get the Facebook you deserve

Recently, Wired reporter Mat Honan conducted an experiment to see what happens if you Like every Page that appears in your Facebook feed. The result was his Friends’ stories being crowded out by updates from noisy brands. No great surprises there.

But here’s a question. If we’re saying that brand stories blocking updates from your friends is a bad thing, what exactly is the logic of Liking any Facebook brand page?

Even if an interest in something suggests you may appreciate news about it, the idea that you would choose for those to be injected in and around stories of your friends’ lives is pretty insane.

It’s also one of the reasons that Facebook can start to feel so repetitive and numbing. The newsfeed puts the commercial, the mundane, and the largest life events all side by side. And they’re further trivialised by the act of idly thumbing through on a tiny smartphone screen at Thursday lunchtime.

Partly to blame is Facebook’s smart use of language. Equating like with Like isn’t like for like. And the problem continues with another core feature: there are friends.. and then there are Friends.

Many users have long passed the magic ‘Dunbar number’, which states that humans can only maintain around 150 stable relationships at any time. As a result, it’s inevitable that people you care about are going to get lost.

The most honestly named feature in all of Facebook is the Newsfeed. But the rest of the language around it stops us from asking the simple question: How do I tell it only to give me the stories that matter.

So here’s a new approach. Every time you see a story that doesn’t interest you, click the little menu button in the top right corner of that card and Unfollow (not unfriend) that person. Go to your likes page (Facebook.com/(your username)/likes/) and consider who you might want to ditch.

Nobody is making you live with your current Facebook experience and it doesn’t take long to fix. What’s stopping you?

September 8th, 2014


Facebook – What a difference a day makes

Yesterday I was just thinking about going back to retroactively add in my technology history to my Facebook timeline after a comment from a Wired reader declared that technology journalists should make theirs public to provide context to their articles. Of course, I was going to set it as private and viewable just by me (and I think the suggestion is pretty ridiculous) but it was fun running through the years of gadgets in my mind and putting things like the Retina Macbook in context.

Which made me then think perhaps it would be cool to do the same with just general events from my life that I could remember — going back through my life year by year and adding everything I could think of for each. Again, stored privately but just like a private diary to check back on every once in a while to see how far I’d come.

And then, as if perfectly on cue, news started to spread that Facebook was somehow publishing users’ private messages posted years earlier on the service publicly for all to see on their Timeline. After some bouncing back and forth with friends, denials from the company itself and then closely scrutinising a couple from my own timeline, it seemed clear something fascinating but bizarre had happened.

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September 25th, 2012


Facebook should update its concept of ‘Friends’


With its IPO now public, Facebook is about to enter something of dark zone for announcements – a move which will no doubt leave a void for speculation and rumour among tech writers. So I thought I might jump the gun with a thought of my own: should Facebook replace “friends” with Likes?

Danny Whatmough and I were recently discussing how to balance the use of different social networks – what are they for and what do you post where? One thing that came up was Facebook and how the friends we had on there didn’t really reflect our current interests and every day any more. It had become almost a scrapbook of people from years and places past.

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February 26th, 2012


Facebook wants you dead


Back in September 2010, Facebook went on a really interesting PR offensive – including a flurry of activity when The Social Network launched and the announcement of a $100m donation (of Facebook stock) to American education.

I find the latter of these especially interesting when considering Facebook’s big picture strategy for the next few years- to explain why, join me for a brief history lesson.

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January 10th, 2012