Yes, because of network effects, Facebook keeps getting more valuable every time it adds another person to its 800 million users and another website to its Social Graph.
But every free social network dies – and it’s time to move on to the next one (as I did in December). Here’s why. [edit 3/23/2011 I reactivated Facebook primarily for business reasons, but found a way to strip the profile down to nothing via Don Caprio. The idea still stands in my mind]
1. It’s Time To Monetize You
Which conflicts with the social part of social media.
There is no such thing as a free lunch – or a free social network.
If you aren’t the customer, then you are the product (advertisers are the true customer).
Facebook makes plenty of money off of ads that target your demographics, but the real gold mine is making money off of your relationships.
Remember when Facebook started the Open Graph? Back when you could no longer customize your info page – you instead had to pick Facebook pages to like? Ok, that was so that Facebook could put you in a very particular marketing category, so that advertisers could sell to people who people who “liked” dogs, cars, whatever.
It was very, very lucrative. But if that was too creepy – you could always opt out by just not putting any information on your info page.
But now Facebook is about to go public. That’s normal. Plenty of very rich people invested a lot of money, and a lot of employees ditched their careers to work really hard on faith for Mark Zuckerberg. And Facebook will soon have a fiduciary responsibility to make as much money as possible for its investors (up until now, it was just whatever Zuckerberg thought was best).
But as lucrative as targeted marketing is – word of mouth marketing is even more lucrative.
Think how often you buy because a friend tells you to. Pretty much always.
Imagine if a Nike marketing rep were sitting next to you in your living room next time you and your good friend were talking about running. That’s what Facebook wants to make money off of.
And that’s a reason to deactivate Facebook.
2. The New Timeline Product Is Creepier Than Ever
The whole idea of a company categorizing your life is creepy. Really, quite disturbing. Facebook has forgotten that it’s just a tool for socializing.
And if a tool tries to control you – umm, that’s not good.
Remember when the Toyota Priuses randomly accelerated and wrecked a few years back? Ok, that’s what Timeline tries to do.
Not to mention the permanence of posts that were supposed to be forgotten. So many of our conversations in real life are forgotten by everyone. And that’s a good thing for the most part.
Your Facebook posts used to be permanent, but would be impossibly buried under new posts as to be basically forgotten.
Timeline changes that. Now that awkward status you posted in 2006 is not only findable, but even profiled now.
Sure, you can “hide from Timeline,” but you can’t do it in bulk. You can’t revert to the old way or mass delete.
The new timeline product is another reason to deactivate your Facebook profile.
3. Less Customization = Less “You”
Facebook won over MySpace partly because they gave you a standardized, nice-looking template to put your stuff on, in contrast to cluttered, ugly, and overwhelming MySpace or GeoCities accounts.
Which used to be fine, because all the content within the template was 100% customizable to make it your profile despite the Facebook blue template.
But every year Facebook has pushed to get more and more control.
Now, though Timeline makes your profile “beautiful” – you’re really left with just a series of choices, rather than nuance and explanations, etc.
In other words, your profile isn’t so much for you as it is for advertisers and marketers.
4. More Clutter + Too Much Energy
Look at the newsfeed page. You don’t have to be a designer to know that there’s WAY too much going on.
The facebook while you facebook in facebook feature is absurd.
There’s way too much spam coming through to actually keep up with the people you care about.
All of Facebook’s attempts to solve the above problems with more and better algorithms make things worse – see this article about Facebook messages.
And Facebooking just feels more and more like…well, like having a horrible anti-virus program running in the background on your PC – supposedly helpful, but really just making things worse overall.
The best solution is to just end it. Deactivate Facebook.
5. They’ll Only Change If You Leave
Despite uproar from users, government audits, embarrassing press, and more – Facebook doesn’t change.
Because you aren’t the customer. You are the product being sold.
Once more, Facebook knows how useful Facebook is.
It knows how much time you’ve invested in it, and how many pictures are uploaded, and how many connections you have. It gets more valuable every time a new person joins.
But even the most lucrative product can’t be sold if it doesn’t work.
That’s why I deactivated. I didn’t delete my account – just in case Facebook changes its ways and I want facebook.com/nshivar back.
If enough people deactivate – Facebook will change (though doubtful).
However, the more likely scenario is that enough people will deactivate Facebook to realize that social life on the internet doesn’t actually die when you leave Facebook.
There are plenty of awesome alternatives.
For example, I’m recreating my profile here on my own personal website (which is built with WordPress, domain by Namecheap, and soon to be hosted by InMotion – it’s easy – ask me for any tips or direction) and do social stuff and photos mainly with Twitter.
Facebook is trying to create a “walled garden” (sponsored, of course) – but that’s not how the Internet works.
Try deactivating Facebook. Just try it. Here’s how to do it