I’m pretty lucky. Over the course of my relatively short time here on the planet, I’ve happened to run into some really amazing people. I wouldn’t call all of these people geniuses per se, but they’re pretty damn smart. They’re the kind of people who sit around wanting to learn more. They read. A lot. And not just blogs about cookies and cakes (like me). So these smart people happen to know when things are happening. And because I try my best to keep them in my circle of knowledge, occasionally, they’ll share tidbits of things they’ve learned and I’ll find myself reading what they’ve shared and maybe even acting like I know something on the subject.
In case you didn’t know, Facebook is making some big changes. I’m not even talking about the recent upheaval with the changes to the homepage feed and sidebar scroll. Apparently, they’re changing the format altogether. Like, you won’t even know what hit you when it comes.
And this is where I make a statement on behalf of everyone: I hate them. You hate them. Pretty much everyone is going to hate them.
You see, social network started really taking off with MySpace. Now, I know there were social platforms before and after MySpce that were popular. But let’s face it; young people started connecting en masse through MySpace.
But that was kind of the problem. MySpace became, well, annoying. It catered to its teeny bopper set and became bogged down by too many extras (remember the person with pages of animated sparkle kittens or tons of music and videos? Coco Chanel it and edit, girl). It began to lose its edge when Facebook came on the scene. As is now famously outlined in The Social Network, Facebook managed to separate itself from the pack by catering to the college set and making it exclusive. Along with some other drama, the film also basically ends with the imminent, if not already obvious, world domination of Facebook’s creator, Mark Zuckeberg. It ends at (more or less) And here’s where the story gets interesting.
Something happened to Facebook that’s never happened before in social networking. Old people started using it. The term “old” being defined, of course, in relation to the coveted holy grail of advertising demographics: 18-24 year olds. And, let’s not forget, the teen populations who have dominated social networking sites since their inception.
So suddenly a new demographic of users has arrived on the scenes. For the generation that invented Facebook, suddenly our parents are on online. And they’re not just using it to keep tabs on their kids after college. They’re actively participating. They’re playing Farmville, posting pictures, liking, writing on walls, clicking advertising. They’re turning Facebook into something really big. They’re making it cross-generational.
You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this. You want to know why I’m admonishing a very successful company. Well here’s why: it’s not that I don’t think the changes may be better. They may. It’s not that I can’t roll with a new format launch. I probably could.
It’s this: I have a life outside of Facebook.
And speaking of which, I happen to be in the middle of moving to a new country. Suddenly arriving in a place with all your belongings stuffed into a suitcase doesn’t lend itself to wanting to take on any more change than is absolutely necessary. And while my circumstance is a bit extreme, I am of the belief that it’s not entirely unusual. Much of the population is busy with their everyday lives: working, raising children, dating and generally trying to make their life work. They don’t like when frivolity (and Facebook is certainly frivolous) suddenly feels like more work.
And here’s where my mom comes in: despite her internet know-how, she didn’t grow up with computers. While there are many incredibly tech savvy people of her generation, there are just as many (if not more) who don’t understand computers on an intuitive level. It’s like learning a new language: the earlier you learn it, the easier it is to be fluent, the later you learn it, the tougher it becomes. For my mother, learning to view a new profile layout is like trying to learn a new dialect; it’s the same, but different. It’s hard and it takes work. And who wants Facebook to be work?
The problem with making such huge, sweeping changes, isn’t actually the changes themselves. I figure that those tech nerds in Silicon Valley (whom I genuinely think are great) are up to some interesting work. But what I question is their respect for the audience they’re working for (and despite the fact that Facebook is not a for-pay service, the users are certainly a vital voice here). I think they’re missing the fact that real people have real lives and that to many people whose participation has helped cast Facebook into the annals of the internet’s Hall of Fame see it as an extra in their lives. For many, it’s frivlous. For many, Google+ is an equally enticing offer.
I’m not suggesting that the changes will cause the collapse of a giant (certainly nothing like the recent Netflix debacle). In fact, I hope not. I’m interested to see what Facebook has in mind and they’ll always be able to cater to a predictable base of teens and college students. But I think, particularly since the most recent changes have caused such a stir, that they’d be wise to know that I joined Google+. Not because I want to leave Facebook, but because, in the frivolous part of my life, whichever platform is easier, whichever platform dispenses the information that I want to share more conveniently, whichever platform works for my mom the best - that’s the one I’ll use.