Facebook! Stop! MY EYES! MY BRAIN! IT HURTS!
If you’ve logged onto Facebook in the last 24 hours, you’ll likely know what I’m getting at. A new-look Facebook has just been launched and it’s…well…a bit busy. Prior to tonight’s f8 Facebook conference, Zuckerberg and co have rolled out a slew of new features, including a real-time “ticker” of all your friends’ and pages’ updates, and a “Top Stories” section that brings what the network assumes are your most pressing interests to the fore.
Oh, and there are bigger pictures in your news feed now too. But no one ever complains about anything being prettified, do they?
The “Ticker” and “Top Stories” are sparking a wave of protest across the net, with backlash being focussed in the comments section of the update post on the Facebook blog.
The main issue seems to be the “Twitterfication” of Facebook. It’s almost information overload, with the constantly ticking list of new stories in the top chugging away at an incessant rate.
It reminds me of a book I’ve been reading recently called “The Shallows” by Nicholas Carr. In it he describes how the web is causing actual physical changes in the make up of our brains, affecting our attention spans and the way we store memories. Facebook’s new-look would surely get a tear down by Carr; there are now so many distractions and pieces of information vying for our attention in one single page that there is only time for surface connections to the content being offered up to us, before a few seconds later a new item is luring us away once more.
My other personal issue with the new-look Facebook is the “Top Stories” section. I appreciate the idea; it takes the “information overload” I mentioned earlier and tries to curate it. The problem is, it reminds me once more of how much information Facebook are keeping on me and my interests, and the way they turn my personal whims into 1s and 0s of code, second guessing my own personal tastes in an attempt to cage me inside their network.
No dice, Facebook, I’m a human, I’m fluid and my tastes are constantly evolving, at a rate your processes currently can’t keep up with. Sure, you may assume based on my clicking habits that I’m only interested in Star Wars, tech and Xbox. But I’ve got a sudden urge to read up on some new corn farming techniques, and your new system of curation doesn’t cater for that.
But that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up on Facebook. Far from it, it’s still the most important digital meeting spot on the web, and the best forum through which to share my thoughts and funny finds amongst my pals. There have been changes in the past that I didn’t like, and I’m sure now I’ve grown not only to accept them, but probably to like them too.
In terms of the web, familiarity breeds contentment, not contempt. Give it a few weeks and all will be forgiven, I’m sure.
Or at least it always turned out to be when there was no alternative. The tidy Google+ network, which until now hasn’t really grabbed my attention, suddenly looks quite a bit more appealing. Why? Because it now looks closer to the old Facebook than the new Facebook does. Which is a very strange, and potentially troublesome position for Zuckerbeg’s empire to find themselves in.