Firstly, everyone is on there. Which probably doesn't sound like a problem at all. Surely it’s great to have everyone I've made even passing acquaintances with in the past two or so years, all one place, nicely stacked up alphabetically, with pretty pictures to remind me of what they look like? Well, yes. But then again, no. Because all that's happening now is that everyone goes into a pile- and the more people get added to the top, the more the rest at the bottom get lost under the near-constant stream of status updates, photo-uploads and daily horoscopes. On more than one occasion, I've logged in specifically to send a message to someone in particular, and then logged out 30 minutes later without having gone anywhere near either his wall or ceiling. This probably says more about my own attention spans than Facebook itself, but I have a niggling feeling that there is more information on a daily Newsfeed than an average human of normal intelligence can hope to fully process in one lifetime.
“But that's what filters are for”, I can hear you yelling, while angrily waving your optical mouse. To which all I can say is- “Calm down, let go of the mouse, and no-one is going to get hurt.” With the rodent- related crisis successfully averted, I will add that surely there comes a point in any social medium when even all the filters you can think of will not make one iota of difference. Allow me to present Exhibit 1: Log into You Tube. Type in ‘laughing baby’ in the search field. Change the Upload Date filter to - This Month. See you in ten years.
My second problem is that it's making me lazy. When you're pretty lazy to begin with, this is a big problem. So where earlier I would take an active interest in my friend's lives, now I just passively keep up with them by flicking through pictures of their new car or kitten. This is fine by itself, but- and I am sure there is an economic theory about this- the more information I am bombarded with, the more likely it is I will miss something. Again, I have the niggling feeling there are more important things going on with my friends than their preferred shade of nail polish. Maybe there isn't, and maybe it's just me, but the niggling feeling persists.
This is made even worse by one simple fact- nothing of real value ever falls into your lap. Or an inbox. The most treasured friendships are always (or at least very often) the ones you have to work at maintaining, ones you consciously make time for. The best stories or articles are usually the ones I seek out and discover myself, instead of linking to them from a forward or RSS feed. The most interesting events take place in the real world, in real life, not in Farmville. Surely we're missing out?
“But..!”, I can see you thinking again, “Surely it's way more efficient to do it this way, because if I was to send a personal message to one friend per day, it would take me six months to get through my list. And that's without even replying to the replies.” To which I would be tempted to say- “Ha! You only have 150 friends?! What are you, a loner?”- but I wouldn't say it, because I don't have that many more than you, and I would like to add you to my list. And then we can keep in regular touch, mainly by exchanging pokes.
And so for one closing thought: If I think it's bad for these two main reasons and possibly loads more, what is Facebook good for? Well, for one thing, I could now take this well-constructed piece of socio-cultural analysis and stick it on my profile, where it will instantly be in the virtual faces of about 500 people. Which is approximately 500 more than the number of people who will see it here. Question is, do I really want to add one more item to that wonderful Newsfeed and deprive all those people the immense pleasure they will undoubtedly feel if and when they find this on their own?