Before you ask, no, I’m not going to quit Facebook. As I’ll point out shortly, that wouldn’t fix this problem.
Lots of people spend way too much time on Facebook. For better and for worse, it’s the most popular social network on the internet, and the #2 most popular website overall (as of May 10th, 2011), behind only Google. While I won’t bother to find sources for my conjecture (because, really, it would take longer than I care to spend researching it), I’m pretty sure Facebook has changed many lives—again, both for better and for worse. I would not be surprised to find out that Facebook has been instrumental in engendering marriages, divorces, hirings, firings, good times, bad times, the best of times, the
blurst worst of times, and too many other things to enumerate here. As stated in the tagline for The Social Network, which came out in 2010, Facebook had upwards of 500 million users at that time. Given that the world’s population is somewhere around 7 billion (heard on Jeopardy! today), that means that about 1 in 14 people are on it. So, I think it’s safe to say it’s affected many lives.
Facebook has so many parts to it nowadays that it’s hard to keep them all straight. I rarely take the time to go through the activity feed to read whatever’s on my friends’ minds, or what manner of supernatural creature they’re clobbering, or what breakfast food they are. I just don’t want to spend that much time doing that, and so I suppose I’ve probably missed a few important events in some of their lives, because it’s so overwhelming to go through everything posted by all of my friends, and I don’t even have that many compared to some people I know (right now I have around 300). I don’t know how some people do it.
That’s not what bothers me about it, though. When I don’t want to waste time on a website, I can just go somewhere else and not risk being sucked into that never-ending stream of information overload. I can go on about my business without the distraction of finding out that Charlene answered the question “Who’s your favorite Braxton family member?” (It’s Tamar, by the way, and if you disagree, you’re wrong.com.)
Well, I used to be able to. Now, Facebook has integrated with so many other websites, I can’t avoid it. That’s right, the thing that bothers me most about Facebook is that I can’t avoid the website by not going to the website. I’m not even sure I can avoid it by not using the internet at all; they may have found a way to integrate themselves into some other part of my life. And if they haven’t, it’s probably only a matter of time until they do.
Regardless of whether or not they’ve invaded every aspect of our lives, they’ve certainly permeated the internet at large. I can’t read through the blogs I frequent without seeing that 33 of my friends liked the post I just read, and being presented with an opportunity to share with the world the fact that I liked it too, even if it’s not particularly obtrusive.
It bothers me that this integration is so popular. As a web developer myself, I appreciate the concept, and I’m rather impressed with some of the things they’ve created. But I also know that if Facebook can show up on another website and find out who I am to tell me that 33 of my friends liked the post, there’s a whole lot of other information they could gather about me. (Not that they would, necessarily, but they could.) This is a bit unsettling to me. I’d like to be able to keep some parts of my life out of Facebook.
On a somewhat-related tangent about Facebook’s pervasiveness, Mark Zuckerberg spoke at the Web 2.0 Summit last year, and at one point (starting around 17:00) he basically said they were planning on taking over the world. He also said Facebook’s photo app had eclipsed Flickr’s because of their “social” aspect, and in a way he’s right, but I still think Flickr’s app is cooler.
Facebook has become pretty ubiquitous. But don’t let it take over your life.