Opinion: I Facebook therefore I am… but when did it get so complicated?

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andy-merrett.jpgAndy Merrett writes…

Oh no, not another opinion piece about Facebook?

Yes, Facebook is now almost as ubiquitously talked about in non-geek circles as the iPhone or the iPod, or Potter’s latest escapades.

Irritating isn’t it?

Oh sure, Facebook is now the fastest growing social network for over-25s in the UK (much to the disgust of their kids, I imagine), but when did it start getting complicated?

No, the system’s not technically difficult to use – that’s the whole point and is why you shouldn’t really be taken aback when your gran adds you as a friend, however wrong that might feel socially.

What’s more complicated is managing all these pesky applications.

Last week, my friend called herself a “Facebook Luddite”. I’m beginning to think I’m the same.

One of the reasons Facebook is so popular over the vomit-fest that is Myspace is that it has a clean, consistent design. You know when you visit a profile or group page what you’re going to get. Or at least, you did.

Now you’re likely to be greeted with a fish tank, a killer rabbit, or a page full of graffiti.

There now seem to be fifty ways of being Super X Mega poked (since when did “do anything you want to me” become socially acceptable, even online?)

There are now multiple places to write on someone’s “wall” or “super wall” – but if you don’t write on the original, Facebook wall, and then your friend deletes the other wall application, your comments are gone – presumably forever.

And I’ve discovered a new spam.

Now that Gmail has my email spam under control, and a plugin-laden WordPress handles my blog spam, I’m faced with… Facebook spam.

Every time I log in, someone else has become ‘zombified’, has bitten me, and is desperate to get me to add the Zombie application. That’s after I’ve negotiated ten other invitations.

It’s like the annoying friend who sends joke emails to their entire address book. I don’t want it.

Perhaps that’s why the BBC (which now seems to mention Facebook at least once a day) is actually quite wise (not lazy) to simply tip their hat to the network… and then devise their own Political Fantasy Facebook rather than writing a real Facebook application.

Their (tongue-in-cheek?) disclaimer makes no mention of zombies at all:

Other social networking services are available. Karate chopping should only be done as a metaphor and real-life violence against politicians is to be abhorred.

It’s a little depressing that, a little over a year after Facebook opened its doors to the Internet community at large, I’m already a grumpy old man complaining about the good old days, before all this new fangled stuff came along.

What was wrong with a simple profile page and a quiet online chat with your mates?

Perhaps it’s a conspiracy. It’s being made messy, and laden with temperamental applications, in time for a Microsoft takeover.

Please, save me now.

Andy Merrett