I found myself with a number of colleagues last night, discussing the merits of social media and the “demise” of mass media, particularly newspapers.
Interestingly, I was surrounded by people with a voracious appetite for all things Facebook, many arguing that they read Facebook more often than any newspaper or website, and claiming it to be their most important information source.
I’ve been on Facebook for a couple of years now, but like many, I’ve watched my friend list grow exponentially in the past 6 months to include everyone I ever knew, met, dated or shared a classroom with.
In the beginning I had some nice updates that I genuinely found informative and useful. Enjoyable even. Truth be told, when I joined, my only ‘Facebook friends’ were fellow marketing folks, early-adopters and tech geeks, and thus people I truly had something in common with.
Let’s contrast that to what I found on my Facebook page this morning.
• A friend from college has sent me a list called “You know you’re a sailor if…” that outlines dozens of quippy things that you should know or do if you are a sailor. (I am not a sailor.)
• Another friend who lives in Finland has uploaded a commentary in Finnish. (Please note that I do not speak Finnish.)
• A friend from grade school has uploaded an article from OrlandoSentinel.com about a woman who locked herself inside her car.
• A coworker uploaded a handwritten sign regarding his funniness versus the funniness of someone named Andy.
• A former colleague announces that she is “looking for Easter Eggs” and asks me to send her some, please.
• A childhood friend informs me that she has a new permanent crown on her tooth and it “f@$!N” hurts. I am not sure why that is something worthy of broadcasting.
• A former coworker announces that “It’s Thursday!”
• The former colleague asking for Easter Eggs announces that she has found the “152 Egg. Type: Common.”
This is followed by a series of people announcing what kind of drink they are, what animal they would be, and challenging me to a variety of “wars” and “challenges.” Many of the challenges are, of course, branded ‘social media campaigns’ from a variety of consumer brands. Now toss in a large number of uploaded photos of events I did not attend and people I do not know.
Facebook updates are now akin to receiving the annual Holiday Card from everyone I know on a daily basis. Instead of just hearing about a years’ worth of news, however, I am now subjected to the daily or tri-daily updates on the most mundane details of their everyday life. And because they are broadcasting all of this to everyone they’ve ‘friended,’ there is nothing personal or intimate about it.
I actually have to search through three pages of ‘stuff’ to find the couple of things I AM interested in reading, which brings me to a shocking realization — Facebook has allowed me to SPAM myself.
This is 1999 all over again when everyone who joined the e-mail party (thanks to AOL) started forwarding every joke email they got their hands on. Facebook is the “REPLY ALL” of the online social world, and I am it’s unwitting recipient.
Clearly, I did this to myself. As Armando Alves pointed out in a previous blog entry, it is our human nature to want to belong. This need has obviously resulted in my accepting far too many friend requests, regardless of how long it has been since I’ve seen someone. The number of “friend requests” in my inbox are now stacking up because I refuse to hit “ignore” and yet can’t quite allow myself to accept as friends various vendors or ancillary acquaintances I couldn’t pick out of a police lineup.
Which is why I was shocked to hear so many people tell me last night they find Facebook to be their most important information source. I find myself logging on to it less and less. Where are people seeing value in all of this clutter?
When I expressed some of this to a colleague last night, he suggested I turn to Twitter. I told him I’m already on Twitter, but I stopped updating my tweets last summer when I realized I had nothing to say to the three people who were following me.
This morning I logged on to Twitter. He – and 12 other people – are now following my lack of Tweets. Which says absolutely nothing about me, but a whole lot about everyone else’s increasing appetite for useless information.