What do we do about Facebook? Many of us use Facebook every day. For many of us, it’s a great way to connect with friends and acquaintances, and to see what’s going on in our communities. I organize a monthly ukulele jam, and Facebook is one of the ways I use to publicize the jams, both on the Kingston Ukulele Society page, as well as other pages.
Unfortunately, Facebook continues to tinker with the filtering algorithms used in deciding what we should see. And this tinkering means that there’s less likelihood that we’ll see what we really want to see.
Facebook does offer a way for us to tailor what we see in our newsfeed. For me, I have my settings configured to see “All Updates” from the vast majority of my Facebook friends, but only the “Status Updates”, “Photos”, and “Music and Videos” from them. The photo at right shows how to change the settings. However, some people have reported that this option is no longer available to them. Since it normally takes a while for updates to roll out to users, it’s inevitable that the rest of us will lose this capability too.
In a Youtube video, Derek Muller explains Facebook’s algorithm that decides what we should see. But here’s my concern: Facebook can never truly understand what’s really important to me. For example, I have some Facebook friends that I have little day to day interaction with, but still I’m interested in everything they post. No algorithm can figure that out.
Of course, Facebook can do whatever it wants. In fact, as a public company, they have a duty to ensure that their stock-holders get the best possible return on their investment. Even if it means reducing the level of usefulness to its users. We all need to realize this fact of business.
But Facebook is also treading a fine line. While doing what they can to maximize share value, they also can’t risk alienating its users. If Facebook becomes less useful to us, what’s the point? Already, there are reports of teenagers leaving Faceook in droves, moving to mobile messaging apps. If Facebook can’t guarantee that I’ll see exactly the things I’ve asked for in my settings, what postings will I miss out on? And also, what assurance can I have that people will see my notifications of upcoming ukulele jams? Big companies can afford to pay Facebook the big bucks needed to ensure that everyone sees their posts. I can’t.
Can I afford to leave Facebook in favor of an alternative social networking site? I’m on Google+, as are many of my friends and acquaintances. But most of them aren’t active on that site. Today, I signed up to Pinterest, but it’s not clear if that’s an acceptable alternative. And I’ve never quite seen the point of Twitter. Today, Facebook still offers me the ability to tailor my newsfeed, but what happens when they take that feature away from all of us?
We’re all left with a dilemma. We all visit Facebook to stay connected and see what’s happening in our communities (geographic or interest). But unless there’s a mass migration, we can’t simply jump to an alternative social networking site. So we’re all stuck with Facebook. As for me, I’ll do my bit to post more on Google+, and less on Facebook. If enough of us do that, perhaps we can tip the balance in favor of the alternative. Or convince Facebook to put more emphasis on the needs and wants of its users.