I shouldn’t admit this, but Facebook makes me queasy. I recently killed my personal Facebook account that the Class of ’83 Reunion Committee begged me to create.
Maybe it’s my unwillingness to finally be found by all those weirdoes I spent most of my high school years trying to avoid. And unlike LinkedIn, which focuses on my professional resume, on Facebook I’m supposed to put personal pictures and photos up on my wall, for all to see? I don’t think so.
Or maybe it’s the Like buttons, which have transformed "Like" into an action verb.
They remind me of second grade, where clandestine notes were used to figure out if someone “liked” someone else. As a lovelorn youth, I once tried to innovate this process by folding my note into an airplane and flying it to my target in the middle of class. Only it landed instead at the feet of my teacher, Mrs. O’Brien. She unfolded my plane, read my amorous profession silently, and handed it back to me. The answer to my question—if I ever got one—is lost to history, while the shame of my failed special ops communication persists.
But now my aversion to Facebook is extending into my professional consciousness. As if sharing of personal information and capturing the cheesy Likes of millions of users weren’t bad enough, new negatives are emerging. Businesses, not just individuals, are getting into the act. Some are creating special 2-stage fan pages, where new visitors have to Like the page to see all of the content. Even worse: Some businesses are providing hard incentives to visitors who Like their content, in a cynical bid to punch up their Like count and get their messages in front of the ever-expanding networks that are forming.
Anyone who has tried to resolve the wildly conflicting opinions found on Zagat or TripAdvisor or Ebay knows that feedback from strangers is of questionable value in determining the truth about goods or services. People’s experiences are hard to compare, even simple ones. And I have found that not many people view the world exactly the way I do, valuing the things I value and discounting the things I discount. I’m also certain that competitive misinformation, spread by competitors posing as dissatisfied customers, is rampant.
Even retreating to the comfort of your hand-crafted “social network” (ugh!) does not guarantee that you’ll turn up useful, honest, actionable data. Without talking to my friends directly, I have no way of knowing why they clicked on the Like button. Was it to congratulate a vendor on a job well done? To beef up their own level of activity to make themselves more relevant? Or perhaps to get 15 percent off their next online purchase? An analytical tool of questionable value has been further devalued. I think we should all unfriend Facebook, right before Social Studies.