Wednesday, January 5, 2011


This is why I don't use Facebook, except to play Scrabble with my parents. (And I'm planning to buy them iPods or iPads so we can upgrade to Words With Friends, at which point I plan to abandon Facebook again.) It's also why I think Facebook is overvalued.

My five main social groups on Facebook: programmers, actors, family, friends from high school, and friends from the San Francisco rave scene. In high school, my main interest was classical languages. When I was a raver, my main interest was going to raves. These two groups of people have ideas of who I am which diverge wildly. You see similar divergence between the sensibilities of actors and programmers, and the way I communicate with my family differs a great deal from how I communicate with any other group.

It's simply impossible to come up with status updates that make sense to every group. For instance, my parents recently encountered rattlesnakes on their property, and I proposed a system for preventing this which they rejected for, as far as I can tell, being too logical and too likely to succeed. If this was a topic of discussion on my Facebook page, my programmer friends would focus on the system, my actor friends would focus on the experience of encountering rattlesnakes - as well as the experience of attempting to talk sense into crazy people - while my high school friends would tell me what was going on with their own parents, and my raver friends would go off on a crazy tangent and start making jokes about peyote.

These are all pretty great ways to deal with this kind of news, but not at the same time. A Facebook discussion like this would travel down several different paths simultaneously and I'd be stuck in the middle trying to participate with all subgroups in whichever way I normally interact with each. This has happened to me several times (although not with this specific example). It's like being pulled in several directions at once, and the result is I just feel Facebook is completely useless for communicating with people.

It's a systemic problem. The second-best solution would be to create five Facebook pages, one for each group of friends, but the best solution is much simpler:
  1. Facebook is a piece of crap
  2. don't use it.
And that's the solution I've chosen. It works really nicely and was a breeze to set up.

The reason I think this means Facebook is overvalued: eventually, once everybody's used to being able to communicate this way, people will want to be able to separate their groups and communicate with them in a more human manner. New sites will emerge which match these more sophisticated idioms, and what will Facebook do? They'll probably have to bolt new, sophisticated ideas onto a framework they built around cruder assumptions. That kind of effort doesn't usually succeed. The basic question with Facebook's valuation is, how long do they have, and how much money can they make during that time? My hunch is that mobile will exacerbate the issues this presentation reveals, ending Facebook's reign sooner rather than later, but it's just a guess.

Update: I guess this says pathetic things about my social life, but fuck it.