It’s true that teenagers are leaving Facebook for Snapchat.
eMarketer recently reported that monthly users ages 12 to 17 will fall 3.4 percent, to 14.5 million people this year, an accelerated decline from the 1.2 percent fall in 2016. It will be the second year of declining teen use for Facebook, according to the site.
But what about adults? My wife and I joined Facebook when we found it to be an easy way to follow our daughter, who posted while on vacation. As more adults joined, more of us connected with our friends and relatives. We connected with those from our hometown, from high school and college, and even some old work associates. Facebook became a great place to see what they were up to without needing to write a detailed email or make a phone call. Facebook was brilliant in inventing a new kind of a light-touch relationship, allowing us to engage with those we might otherwise have forgotten or ignored. A way to like a comment, share photos, and give a thumbs-up without fully engaging.
As a result, I went from very occasional use to checking it a few times a day. Like most things we do on the web, we tend to overindulge. If a few minutes of attention is good, hours must be better!
But with greater usage has come a sea change in its content and a loss in the pleasure it once brought. Facebook has foisted upon us stuff they think we want to see without asking. For example, while liking a comment from a distant relative about a political figure, up came stories about that politician. But I had little interest in seeing these political stories; I was more interested in interacting with my relative.
And this has been repeated time after time. My Facebook feed has now become filled with stories that are mostly opinion pieces, some from unknown sources, many inflammatory, whose goal is to get me to like or follow them. In addition, my feed is full of ads that are annoying and useless. Ever since I shopped for a pair of shoes months ago, I get ads for shoes plastered on the feed. And even more annoying is that I get misleading ads for products that appear to be endorsed by friends, who are totally unaware that they are being exploited.
What I’m seeing has morphed Facebook into a completely different product than when I first began using it. I liked it as a way to engage friends and relatives. It’s now become a wasteland of stories to stir our emotions, a sea of useless ads, and comments from friends of friends I have no interest in seeing.
Even Facebook’s alert indicator has become useless. I get notifications from a stranger who happens to put a comment on a post I liked, and posts from friends of friends of friends. I’ve gone through the settings time after time, trying to tailor my notifications and feeds to what is of interest. But the settings don’t offer enough options. They provide a little trimming and tuning, instead of major pruning and elimination.
What I’d like are settings that allow me to choose the content type. I’d like a switch to choose family and friends and a switch to turn off political news. Without those options, my engagement with Facebook will likely go to zero. If Facebook believes they have the best engineers and best algorithms, provide me with what I want, not what they think I want. If my experience is similar to others, they’ll be losing adults as well as teens.
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