If you want to see a bunch of human beings do a fairly impressive imitation of ants in an anthill that’s just been kicked over, make changes to Facebook. They’ll madly scurry about convinced that the sky is falling. We’ve gotten so used to the place that even the smallest change feels like a big deal, requiring a total reorientation. And usually, it’s really not as bad as all that. It’s just a web site, after all; most of us have evolved from not even having the internet to having dozens of bookmarks, so a few changes here and there should be no big deal.
But what Facebook and other social media sites seem to frequently forget is that we want to be in control of the social part. We want to determine whose interactions we see, which posts show up in our feeds, which friends can read what we write. We want them to be our little spaces on the Web. Recently though, Facebook and Pinterest made changes that assume they know best how we want to interact with each other. They’ve followed the dreaded trend of trying to guess what we’d like to see rather than just showing us what we want to see. And as mind-readers, they’re pretty good web sites.
I get that these sites aren’t operating as charities. They need to make money in order to keep the lights on. and guiding users to certain content is a good way of doing that. But ticking off a good chunk of your user base isn’t. It baffles me why it seems so difficult for these sites to stick with a simple chronological listing of posts. Don’t try to predict which ones will interest me the most, don’t try to guess which friends are closest to me, don’t suggest total strangers because we used the same word or posted the same picture. Just put the post from noon ahead of the post from 11:57. It’s not rocket science. It’s why we’re on these sites in the first place. It’s what drew us to them. And then they decide they need to be something completely different from what got them all those users to begin with.
And yeah, this isn’t a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. You could argue the connections made through Facebook and Pinterest are shallow or superficial. But at least they’re connections. At least people are using this technology to be part of a community, even if it’s never one that meets face to face. Shouldn’t that community be able to connect in the way it chooses? You don’t walk over to your friend’s place only to have the home owner’s association say, “Hey, we’ve noticed you enjoy going to Bob’s house. Jeff next door enjoys similar things! We’re sending you there instead.” However trivial they may seem to some, our online interactions should be just that. Ours.