Why Am I Still on Facebook?

Facebook is one of the few large companies that I'm not convinced will be dominant or even around in five years. With each new update, I feel like the company is going backward — not forward

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BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP / Getty Images

I wrestle with this question almost daily — in fact, every time I use the service. There are experiences in this life that I truly dread. Putting gas in my car, for example, is about as inconvenient of an experience as it gets. Facebook is quickly becoming one of those experiences — specifically, checking Facebook.

I wrote an article a few weeks ago in which I outlined where the real value of Twitter lies. Today I want to focus on Facebook, which I have been highly critical of in past columns.

What Is Facebook Good for?

This is the ultimate question. Or, if we were to look at it a different way: What is the job that I am hiring Facebook to do?

The answer is that I hire Facebook to help me stay in touch with friends and family. That is Facebook’s job; that is why I use it. The problem is that this is not the experience many Facebook users primarily use it for.

Facebook is not a stream-of-consciousness service, and, as I pointed out a few weeks ago, neither is Twitter in terms of value. Facebook is at its best when my friends and family post pictures of vacations, or share life updates or moments. Specifically, Facebook is exceptionally useful for keeping up with friends and family who live far away. If I am truthful when answering the question posed in the title of this column, the answer is: Because of those few friends or family who don’t live near me. Or when close friends go on vacation and use Facebook to share moments. This is when the service is really great.

Facebook is great when your social circle uses it like a social network to share interesting moments with friends and family. This use case, however, is rare. And honestly, it can be done better.

What Facebook Isn’t Good for

Given the nature of why people use Facebook — to stay in touch with friends and family — it seems that this is the worst possible place for ads and sponsored posts. I go to Facebook to keep up to date with people I rarely or never see anymore, not to look for products or promotions.

Magazines, for example, are a much better place. When I read a magazine, like Digital Photography, I am a captive reader with a specific interest in digital photography. Therefore, that is the best place for companies within the digital-photography space to pitch me about useful products related to digital photography that I may interested in. This is the power of targeted advertising.

The problem with Facebook, and the ads within it, is that the audience is so diverse that it’s hard to target an audience as well as a topical magazine can, for example. Facebook attempts to do this by knowing what you like or don’t like, and by using that data to create a profile for you. It then hopes to use this data to go to advertisers and get them to target you. However, how it is done today is more annoying than anything. In fact, it is so annoying to have sponsored content show up on my wall that I would prefer to avoid that product at all cost because I am so irritated at it. This can’t be the response that brands are looking for from their target audience on Facebook.

When Facebook was first launched, and for a few years after, it was truly a unique experience. The experience of discovery and connection has transitioned to management and the need to sift through many random posts to find the few that are meaningful. The Facebook of then is dead and the new Facebook is here.

It is no wonder that, according to Harvard Business Review:

Thirty-four percent of Facebook users say they spend less time on the site now than last year, while just 13% say they spend more time on it, according to a Pew survey. Additionally, 28% say the site is less important to them now than a year ago, compared with 12% who say it’s more important. Decreases in engagement with the site seem to be most prevalent among the young: 42% of users ages 18 to 29 report spending less time now on the site.

Given the heated debate that took place when I posed the question in late 2011 as to whether the beginning of the end of Facebook is upon us, I’m assuming I may get disagreement from readers with my statements here. But Facebook is one of the few large companies that I’m not convinced will be dominant or even around in five years. With each new update Facebook releases, I feel like the company is going backward — not forward. Of course, Facebook has to figure out ways to make money, but I’m convinced that what it’s doing now to monetize the service isn’t driving people away instead of bringing them in deeper. This all has to change if Facebook is to exist in the long run.

Bajarin is a principal at Creative Strategies Inc., a technology-industry-analysis and market-intelligence firm in Silicon Valley. He contributes to the Big Picture opinion column that appears here every week

60 comments
mohan37
mohan37

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- if your Facebook sucks, it's your fault.  You let them in to your timeline, and you're the one neglecting to clean them out.  Between unfriending, blocking, moving to "aquaintances," and even a variety of 3rd party content filters, there's no excuse for having a majority-unpleasant Facebook experienece anymore except laziness. Too lazy to do it, or too lazy to learn how.

Reclaim your social media!

bobbutts
bobbutts

It's all about having the most people, and because of that FB is the de facto winner.

ThomasBrown
ThomasBrown

"Putting gas in my car, for example, is about as inconvenient of an experience as it gets."

You have to drive like a mile or two on a giant planet in order to find fuel for your automobile. I'd say that's pretty convenient. Of course, you also need oil companies to drill and refine and ship the stuff to the gas stations. For that, you need government and infrastructure and advertising. 

But anyways, I like the idea of "what job am i hiring Facebook for?" Whatever I'm using it for, FB makes its money by selling advertisement space. It has been said that with FB, the users are the product or at least a source of leverage to get companies to buy advertising and infometrics. 

I use it less because it's all becoming irrelevant to my daily wants and needs. Plus the advertisements are annoying. 


NWLB
NWLB

Facebook will survive, but I think it has peaked.  Even if they draw more users, they face the usual cycle of people moving onto other things.  They can sustain a core of users and will.  They likely will linger around for many years as a site and company.  Yet even mobile, hyped to be the companies long-term salvation is more likely to prove the start of the end of the fad.  Twitter is better suited to mobile use.  Google+ is going to creep into most anything people do with Google, which means it inevitably will pass Facebook as being a universally used service.  Plus, in the end, people simply don't trust Facebook.  It is the new Microsoft.  A huge, ponderous company that is out of touch with the market, poorly managed, and sustains itself with size and cash.  Every move Facebook is making seems two and three years behind the curve.  You could also say Facebook is the next AOL.  A company hyped to be ahead of the curve and destined to change how we do things online.  That didn't pan out either.  

*shrug*

I spend more time learning how to hack Chrome OS to run Windows games so I can dump Windows.  I spend more time figuring out how to automatically broadcast content updates to Facebook than trying to log into it.  I spend way more time using Google+ than I ever will Facebook.


John
John

Never had much interest in FB.  It always seemed more like a chick site to me.

SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

Facebook is where people try to make their life look better than it is.   

Everyone is "off to the gym now" or something when they post.  Sorry fatties you are off to eat McDonalds more likely!

BillKleinsturn
BillKleinsturn

I use FB like I do all the other significant social media sites--as flypaper.  I post nothing on it.  However, since it's so well-known, people who've lost touch with me can find me there--no photos, no timeline, no comments, no nothing--except to send out a "friend" request.  When I get that, I arrange for other, more direct means of communicating with them, and that's the extent of FB's involvement.  When FB dies out, there will be some other directory service I will use.  But to post actual information about me on any of these sites?  Sorry, corporate America.  Go screw yourselves and your attempts to insert yourself, unwelcomed into my life.

imthecommentator
imthecommentator

Facebook could have been developed on the Craigslist business model, which emphasizes providing a service instead of milking users for a profit. Craigslist survives by charging for job ads in only a few select markets, and companies are happy to pay. Craigslist employees 30 people and their servers handle 50 billion page-views per month, about 1/20th of Facebook volume.  In the following quote from Craigslist's Wikipedia page, replace "find cars, apartments..." with "share photos and experiences with friends" and you would have Facebook: "CEO Jim Buckmaster told Wall Street analysts that Craigslist has little interest in maximizing profit, instead it prefers to help users find cars, apartments..."

blackgossiper
blackgossiper

in these generation facebook became  a teenage addiction. they don't focused on their studies anymore and they want to open their facebook accounts instead of studying their lessons. and it's so frustrating knowing that their parents work hard just to sent them to school but they just wasting it.

therealdude
therealdude

I believe Facebook has been a fad--something that will eventually fade out in favor of something else. There are already other better ways to keep in touch with people you seldom see and probably more on the horizon.

IreneKennedy
IreneKennedy

I have just about had it with Facebook.  I'm tired of all the recipe's and the Like This Page for Cancer, the military, battered dogs & people, politics and everything else.  I joined to be able to keep in touch with people I don't see often.  I have deleted so many people that I'm down to 20 and some of them may go soon.  People are not using the site for what it was intended and frankly, I'm not thrilled with the set up either.

ibenzawla
ibenzawla

"You have a notification pending" is a message I have come to dislike. I don't need Facebook to suggest friends for me and I am satisfied with the few I have. Facebook is a great social media site but I think they are overdoing it. I don't mind some commercials but certainly would not like to be inundated.

sagebrush
sagebrush

My family urged me to get on fb so we could stay in touch.  Now I'm inundated in "I have a headache and I'm going to take a shower," and unwanted religious and political comments.  If you have something of the latter to share, know your audience!  If it's of the previous variety, do you really think everyone you know wants to hear about it?  I mean, I'm happy to hear the high, or low, points of your life, but not your every movement!

MadScientist
MadScientist

I agree that the sponsored posts are not done well. I keep being offered alcohol rehab facilities and I realized that it may have come from how many of my friends were posting jokes about how drunk they were. If I'm truly an alcoholic based on all the drinking jokes, wouldn't it make more sense to pitch me vodka? Related - when did they start letting children on?

smather2175
smather2175

You don't have a very good understanding of the basics. Would you agree that the internet is replacing the printed newspaper? I thought so. How did newspaper's make money? It wasn't from subscriptions and sales. That doesn't even cover the cost of the paper, ink, and printing. They only made money with advertising. If it were not for advertising revenue you would not be able to do the Sunday crossword or read you favorite op-ed. The same model applies to the internet.Unless a sight charges a subscription that is hefty enough to sustain it's existence, they go out of business, For sights that don't charge to access, like Facebook, Goggle, etc. they can't exist without advertising revenue. Same with the newspaper, you just have to put up with annoying adds breaking up the column of the article you're reading. So, for Facebook to provide you the services that you do like, they have to generate advertising revenue. How else can they pay their staff and stay online. The fact that the internet has opened up incredible analytics to determine what people like and display appropriate adds is actually a godsend. Don't lay that on just Facebook. Any major site does the exact same thing. Newspapers never had that option. Analytics will eventually make your life much easier in so many ways, so don't knock it.

LukeStafford
LukeStafford

The last 10 years of "social" on the web has been about people moving from one place to another. Like migratory paths, we flocked from Xanga, from Friendster, from MySpace, and ultimately Facebook will & actually is facing this. The problem with Facebook is people are now questioning how much & what they should post. That freedom isn't always there for twenty something users, which hurts Facebook. After all, Facebook is just your social network. What true value does it provide if you have no friends, or inactive ones.

The new sites I'm liking are more about creating truly helpful communities online. Yelp. ChoicePunch, IndieGogo, and others.

Janette
Janette

Can't remember the last time I used fb. All I wanted was to stay in touch with people too far away to visit, but instead I get everyone posting rants about their political views/opinions/critiques/criticisms or quoting each and every passage from the Bible for the latest catastrophe du jour. Jeez, it's not a podium or a pulpit. Whether spoken or written, I don't force my politics or religion on others and I welcome others to do the same.

bob55155
bob55155

The common perception seems to be that the reason everyone is on Facebook is because everyone else is on Facebook.  The fact that everyone is on Facebook creates  real value when you are searching for long lost friends, exes, etc., but after searching for people from your past gets old the primary value they offer is a common space for you and your friends to communicate and share via the activity stream. That being said I think Facebook has done an amazing job building a service that is liked and used by millions but I also think that mass adoption by everyone on the planet (your parents, distance relatives, your boss, etc.) is becoming it's Achilles' heel.

One of reasons I don’t log onto to Facebook much anymore is that my activity stream is filled with posts from people I barely know. I know I can set my privacy options so I don’t see their posts and they don’t see mine but the reality is I don’t really want to be linked to people I barely know.  Unfriending just seems harsh so I don’t do that.

I think that the activity stream centered social network model is here to stay but there are lots of other sites offering this service that can compete with Facebook for different demographics.

Ok time for the shameless plug:  I have some friends who have developed a site that offers users the opportunity to build new friends lists and does not require real names. The site just launched so if you are still in the searching for long lost friends phase it probably isn’t for you.

But if you are over that and like the idea of starting out fresh with a new friend’s list and where you don’t have to use real names check out 19waves.

AdvertisingNut
AdvertisingNut

The spend more time on the site stats need to have some context wrapped around them - with the change in user behaviour and the move to mobile of course they are going to spend less time on the site. I personally spend less time on every site than I did a year ago because I use mobile sites and apps available. Facebook does need to continue to show value and if it manages to continue to provide a place where a number of my friends go to share updates I'm going to continue to use the platform, as will others. The ads are a different story, propelled by execs who want to see their ads on Facebook - but don't think about the user experience and potential brand impact (check out the constant feedback provided to AdRoll about there frequency and retargeting approach and how it annoys users, its ironic considering they are a retargeting company). In all media you need to ensure relevance and also understand what message you're pushing to the audience, it's not about being on a site because people go there anymore, it just doesn't work and marketing dollars are wasted that way. 


IanTheParrot
IanTheParrot

Seems to me this is what Path.com and Twile.com are designed for?  Facebook is becoming a platform to share everything with everyone, but if you're the kind of person (like me) that wants to be a bit more selective, it's an uncomfortable environment.  And I don't want to see pictures of my friends' dogs any more!

HansGruber
HansGruber

When the NSA decided they wanted to keep a running database of all citizens lives, the question was "who will collect the data and who will do the data entry?". The answer was simple, "the People will do it themselves!"

HansGruber
HansGruber

When the NSA decided they wanted to keep a running database of all citizens lives, the question was "who will collect the data and do the data entry?". The answer was simple, the People.

LeonRedinger
LeonRedinger

Not only has facebook's quality of service declined over the years, but they are spying on you.  - That, however, is a whole different story in itself.
Like others have mentioned, give Zurker a shot! It may be little overwhelming at first, especially if you're familiar with the Facebook format, but toy around with it for a couple days, and I'll bet you find yourself coming back! I'm sure you'll be telling your friends about it, too!

orangeplasticfish
orangeplasticfish

You are freeloader complaining about having to see a liitle advertising to pay Facebook's bills. Here is a thought: pay Facebook $10 a month to NOT see any advertisements when you log in...Eventually, at some point, all web business will need to make a profit. If you want to stay a freeloader, then you will have to spend rest of your online life moving from one web business to another to keep ahead of advertising and subscriptions.

jesusmatac
jesusmatac

3 years ago, FB was great for sharing with my friends. Now, I find it very boring. Just play games, feeds from pages I'm interested, post articles and vids to my profile. Less and less about friends. I dont even use the chat. And likes drop. I would say, in my case, use of FB decrease like 60%. Same case with twitter, tumblr and g+. Nothing to do with ads. Just need real life. 

StoyanPetrov
StoyanPetrov

I can't see a problem here. Facebook is free for all of us, and as a free service it needs money in order to be up and running. This is how the major free sites work - by offering sponsored content, which is their only way to keep their service free for us. For example, if you don't want ads on your TV you subscribe to HBO or any other pay-per-view channel, you might be interested in. Now do you prefer a free-from-ads Facebook, but no-longer free? I personally don't bother seeing ads and as long as they are small and non-offensive, these are pretty acceptable for me. My Facebook experience is still positive overall and I don’t need other alternatives. I’m using Facebook not only for staying in touch with my friends, but also as a source of information. Imagine a magazine, tailored for you only. Instead of visiting dozens of sites everyday, by liking the pages you're interested in you get anything you need to know - from a single site! Google+ is almost dead now and it’s not because of its ads.

SamSilva
SamSilva

I been using Zurker for sometime and like the way it is allowing people to connect wherever they are and without being told how many friends you can have on Facebook and being told not to do so by Facebook!

Zurker is the proper place to meet and be part of a great community,Zurker rights for every member!

Long live Zurker!

GabrielTronCoelhoFerreira
GabrielTronCoelhoFerreira

Brazil was an early adopter of Orkut, which was a hugely successful social network over here. Slowly it became less fashionable and the trend setters emigrated to Facebook. After achieving a critical mass, millions followed and Orkut died overnight, so to speak. Who´s to say the same fate will not befall Facebook? Few things are permanent on the web. 


tigereyes
tigereyes

Zurker is the place to be if you don't like obnoxious ads. If you like meeting all sorts of people from all walks of life around the world, and you are an open minded person with and adventurous spirit, good! You will fit right in! Zurker doesn't block you or send you 'nastygrams' when you connect with too many people at once, and god forbid you don't actually KNOW them!!  THAT IS THE IDEA at Zurker. To meet people you wouldn't otherwise meet and learn from one another, share, etc. I love it there, you get to know the people and they become like family. FB blocks you from this, why?? Nobody was BORN with friends we had to go out and make them, by actually talking and interacting (Hellooo!! FB are you listening??!! get a clue!!) Zurker is still in beta, but it has come a long way in the year since I have been a member, and all for the better. The members have a voice at Zurker...not so on FB. It is a 'culture shock' for people who are really entrenched in FB....no ads, no games (although we do make some up, and it is a fun time) don't be scared of 'different'....'Different' is GOOD here, we encourage it!....We also are willing to answer any questions new members have, as we were once new members ourselves. Come over to Zurker and give it a try....you may find a new social home.

laksh
laksh

This is where Zurker steps in!!

I've reduced facebook usage drastically over 12 months since I started using Zurker. Even though it's still in beta, and doesn't have the feature of real-time notifications of updates, I love using it. It's such a cool and calm environment there which u can't find at Facebook which always has a hawk-eye on u!!

Moreover, it's the users who make the decisions about features and services on Zurker!! It's a democratic social network - a revolutionary concept in social networking.

SelmaRahman
SelmaRahman

I happen to think facebook is becoming more and more useful since I use to use it to connect with family and now through ‘liking’ a specific page I can get up to date news, information and promotions that would have been oblivious to me in the past. It has become a crafty tool in learning and keeping up with world news and global trends as well as offering interesting articles that help feed and entertain my mind. I will never miss the social commentary as much as the information tailored to my interests that facebook affords me. So though there may be some merit to this author’s opinion and prediction I respectfully wish to openly state, “I hope facebook lives on”.

chingrichard1
chingrichard1

i use it to be connected with international news publishers and to get myself updated with the worlds news.I never chat with friends

bobbutts
bobbutts

@imthecommentator I think craigslist is a great comparison, since it's also a horrendous website saved by having the best content in it's class.

HunterHolt
HunterHolt

@blackgossiper Perhaps you should be less concerned with being judgmental about other people's studies and be more concerned with yours. Learn some grammar before you pretend to know about what others don't. 

BillKleinsturn
BillKleinsturn

@ibenzawla Oh, and I forgot to mention, the programmers who do the marketing stuff are always second and third rate from the original developers.  In Google's case, for example, even though I do have Chrome installed, their home page still always prompts me to install it, just because I've deleted the easy 7-year old developer skills of storing my choice in a cookie, instead of actually testing to see if I have Chrome installed already then LEAVING ME ALONE about it.  Third rate programmers always work for marketing types.

BillKleinsturn
BillKleinsturn

@ibenzawla Agreed.  Google is becoming like that now, too.  Rather than the once clean interface, I'm now prompted and reprompted every time I go to its home page about whether I want to make it my home page and whether or not I'd like to install Chrome.  They store the answers in cookies and I clean cookies after each session, thus the reprompts.

It's so typical.  You have brilliant engineers think up this stuff, then the marketing idiots and lawyers want to glom onto it in their way which, ironically, lessens its usefulness.  Bing is the same.  Stores settings in cookies, so I'm always having to turn off its history, always need to minimize its stupid "what's happening" portion in the bottom of what used to be a fairly cleanly designed SEARCH screen.

Pathetic, really.

BillKleinsturn
BillKleinsturn

@smather2175 No, we have an excellent understanding, and of more than just the basics.  It is the algorithm and programmer types who have an abysmal understanding, as witnessed by the comments here that reflect real world experiences.  You must be one of them--an elitist, so willing to tell the rest of us that our experiences are not valid, because, ahem, you "see the much bigger picture."  Did you ever consider, Big Picture Seer, that so-called "analytics" will end up in a cul-de-sac because they're either wrong or lagging indicators?  Don't get all your information from watching movies like "Minority Report."  Take to heart the experiences of what actual people are telling you.  That's an "analytic" you can actually bank on.

SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

@LukeStafford 

Yelp is 75% fake reviews.  Companies can pay to filter out bad reviews as well.

BillKleinsturn
BillKleinsturn

@bob55155 Good luck to your friends.  But FB does not "require" real names, either.  They ask for them.  But like blue state Voter ID laws, they don't enforce it at all.  (Sorry for that latter shameless political comment.)

roberjon
roberjon

@LeonRedinger Of course facebook is spying; after all it is a program on the internet and it's common knowledge that the internet, simply by design, mines, sells, and trades everyone's information.  It never fails to amaze me how people can use the internet then be surprised when they find out they are being spied on.


NaveedXVO
NaveedXVO

@orangeplasticfish Do you work for facebook?

The ads are obnoxious, the service makes social connections meaningless and the company spies on you. IT's not worth $10 a month. They wouldn't have any customers at $10 a month. They ought to make the ads less obnoxious and be happy anyone uses their site, because any a**hole can make a site just as good if not better. The only thing keeping people on facebook is that everyone is on facebook.

ykz
ykz

@GabrielTronCoelhoFerreira

Same thing happend here in India Gabriel reg Orkut and FB.

I was spending a lot of time on FB because of my friends. But these days just to check as my friends are not using it frequently. And what i feel now is that its not difficult for me to leave it which was not the case earlier. I can say FB policies and whatever FB is doing and incorporating these days are just hurting the user sentiments. 

Change is inevitable n I am having the same feeling regarding FB. Hope to get some good alternative...

ykz
ykz

@tigereyes 

liked some of your points... never heard of Zurker earlier... thanks for the info...

just searched on net abt it and read it has some amazing features...!!!

wanna give it a try... :)

MaryBlack
MaryBlack

@SelmaRahman When you "like" a page you do NOT get all the "up to date news, information and promotions" of that page.  It used to be like that.  But then Facebook decided to charge page owners money to guarantee that all of their "likers" would get their info.  Unless the page pays, their "likers" only get a small portion of the news from the page.

Other sites do a far better job of giving you "interesting articles" than Facebook.  I never trust the info I see on Facebook -- way too many unfounded rumors and nonsense.  I either just disregard the so called "info" on Facebook or at least check it out with snopes or hoaxslayer.

The author of the article is right.

ThomasBrown
ThomasBrown

@HunterHolt 

shut up...grammir artgument rearing it's uglee heyud. that's like the true sign of being a dingus. 

LeonRedinger
LeonRedinger

@roberjon

I never said I was surprised. I just stated a fact, and left it for the audience to research themselves.

The Internet cannot mine nor sell anyone's data. That is similar to saying that life spies on you.
People on the Internet can spy on you just like they can offline and in everyday life. Life and the Internet both allow spying, but they do not conduct the spying itself.

In RL, we keep our private stuff in secure locations like our homes and dresser drawers. Valuables we keep in safes and banks.
The Internet can provide the same security, but it requires the users to trust the owner of the dresser drawer. Some places are more trustworthy than others. 

BillKleinsturn
BillKleinsturn

@LeonRedinger And an objective parsing of roberjon's post never stated that *you* were surprised, only that "some" people, by any intelligent inference since roberjon himself proves the exclusion of interpreting it to mean "all," are surprised. 

He never wrote you were surprised.