Zuckerberg, No

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Recently, Mark Zuckerberg announced his team would be adding a “dislike” button to Facebook, in response to repeated requests. For me, that would be the beginning of the end – I don’t know how much posting I’ll be doing if that change is enacted.  (See item #6 below.)

I started the following piece in 2010, and first shared it on Facebook in 2012. The points still apply.

The Social Network (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Facebook)

For something so universal (“one billion active users” as of October 2012, or something around 14% of the world’s population) it’s striking how many people profess to dislike Facebook. I was one of them until a few years ago – I bought the press that said Facebook was a time waster. I’ve changed my mind.

1. It’s better than e-mail.
Remember when e-mail used to be our main electronic communication tool? Think of how many ways e-mail could go wrong – bad addresses, changed addresses, spam filters, too-large attachments, full mailboxes, blacklists – and consider how Facebook eliminates those issues. Plus, you don’t have to worry about the format of your pictures and videos, or what kind of software the recipient has to view your files, or re-sending when they are deleted.

2. Size matters.
If Facebook were only a social network, it might make sense to keep a small circle. Those who decry social media say it impersonalizes relationships, but that view presumes that all links on Facebook should be true “friendships.” Sometimes it’s handy to reach a lot of people. And Facebook has them. The bigger it gets, the more valuable it becomes as a resource. Developers now integrate Facebook’s calendar, address book and other features into their products. Community groups and businesses can easily reach those who want – and request – their information.

3. It just works.
People take this for granted when they start nit-picking Facebook’s interface quirks, but consider what an amazing feat of engineering the system represents. One billion accounts, any of which can be connected in any combination to each other, seeing just about instantly what’s going on, with variable access rights enforced. And it’s fast.

4. You see what you want to see.
Facebook provides tools to filter what’s being shown on the news feed. I can get updates from sources I’m interested in, daily specials from the restaurants I like, posts about what my favorite theater groups are doing, in addition to whatever is shared by people I know. I can see less or more of any of that based on settings I control.

5. People are who they are.
Sociologically, one of the neatest things about Facebook is that people tend to be how they are “in real life.” Some post mostly about their kids, some post about their hobbies or workouts, others mainly repeat stuff others have said. Some engage with friends on a regular basis, others are quiet. Some are positive, some are argumentative. And that’s largely how those people are (can you think of anyone who is vastly different from their Facebook persona?) Also like in life: your Facebook friendships give back pretty much what you put into them.

6. The genius of Like.
I love the “like” button. It’s perfectly ambiguous, but in a positive way. It can signal agreement, solidarity, or just that you’ve read a post. It’s easy. Plus, nobody can comment directly on your like. I also love that there isn’t a “dislike” or a “hate” button. To dislike requires commitment – you have to use words, and those can be commented on.

7. Memes are virtual bumper stickers.
For better and for worse.

8. It’s full of surprises.
I love coming across an interesting comment by a friend I haven’t thought about in a while. I love seeing a friend request from someone I’ve lost touch with. I love keeping up on what’s going on with people I never would have before, and discovering they feel the same about me.

9. It’s a useful forum.
It’s one thing to engage in conversation about an issue with people who agree with you. It’s more valuable to open up the conversation to anyone who wants to join. (I’ve discovered that people will be civil if you ask them to be. If they aren’t, you can delete their posts.)

10. It’s a tool.
Those who complain about Facebook seem to think it’s replacing traditional social interaction. I’d say it can potentially enhance that interaction. How often do we really open up when we’re talking to someone? I’ve had many recent conversations that have started “I read what you posted on Facebook…” It’s a shorthand for getting to know someone, on their terms. I can stay in touch with people all over the world. I can ask my network for advice, feedback, and favors.