Facebook is for small people

I just deactivated my Facebook account. No, I don’t want a medal. No, I’m not doing it because it’s the in-thing, or because of SOPA, or because of Timelines. I’m doing it because Facebook’s reason for existence will eventually undermine it – and I want to save myself from that.

These days everyone’s comparing Google+ to Facebook, and naturally there are arguments for both sides. As it turns out, I’m sticking with Google+. And this is why.

Facebook and Google had very similar origins – students who were interested in building websites to do cool stuff. But there was one fundamental difference – Facebook was built to make it easier for people to share. Google was built to index all the world’s information, and make it easily accessible.

Fast forward to 2011. Facebook is embroiled in a scandal with almost every new feature release. They’ve lost the trust of thousands of users (a drop in the ocean compared to their 700 million+ userbase). On the flip side, Facebook has made it easier for people to share, and has done some good in the world (see: Arab Spring).

The newest feature release – Timeline – continues on in that trend. Making it easier for people to share their life story. But in this, Facebook shows up a fatal flaw in their comprehension of the human condition – not everyone wants their histories shared.

Lord knows I’ve done some embarrassing things in my life. So have you, and everyone else in the world. People grow, mature, and change – and they don’t always like who they’ve been. The stories about this are plenty – people losing their careers over stuff unearthed on Facebook. There will only be more of that with Timeline’s release, which (if not filtered properly) could effectively let anyone peer back into your past.

On one level, it’s extremely honest, and I sometimes find myself wishing we lived in a society that overlooked big, personal blunders – drunk texts, car crashes, accidental children. Sadly, we don’t. I can only imagine the horror some people will go through when Timeline exposes something about their past that they wanted to keep hidden – in much the same was as Google Buzz’ incredibly botched launch reconnected people that should have stayed separated.

On Facebook, you are the story. Your life, your photos, history, tags, friends, notes, all of it. It’s a single, streamlined view into who you are as a person, and that’s where it will fail. People, fundamentally, are not that interesting.

It’s what they create that’s interesting. It’s what they do with their lives – that’s what really inspires and motivates us. I’m reminded of a saying, been around for ages, and I found it via Hugh McLeod:

Small people talk about other people.

Average people talk about things.

Great people talk about ideas.

Facebook is for small people. That’s its entire design goal – people, and their stories. Their party photos and apartment leases and new cars and relationships and kids and jobs and retrenchments. Poking and liking and commenting on updates about people’s lives.

Google+, on the other hand, will inevitably beat Facebook for one very important reason – it doesn’t care who you are. It cares about what you DO.

Google+ is designed to give people a place to share interesting things. Either stuff they they create (photography is a massive one right now), or stuff they find online. Though Facebook, you’ll get a steady stream of mundane updates about your friends. Small-people stuff. Through Google+, you’ll get the mindblowing stuff. The things, the ideas, and the people behind them.

That’s the reason I’m staying with Google+. Facebook lets you relive your life and the lives of others – Google+ gives you the chance to create something amazing. Enter into it with the bare minimum about your identity, and build a reputation around what you share – not who you are.

There are other reasons, of course – the seamless integration with their other offerings, creating a one-stop online shop for everything you could possibly care to do on the Internet. The fact that Google’s maintained a positive public image as far as data management is concerned. And the fact that Google, for all its indexing and power, will still let you remain completely anonymous on their platforms.

Adios, Facebook.

6 thoughts on “Facebook is for small people

  1. I agree completely with your reasoning, but must note: the people who want to market Google+ themselves don’t realize what they’ve got. They WANT G+ to be “small”. They WANT to push G+ as an “identity service” – see all the bruhah over Google telling you what your name is. They want people to only talk about people there, to use G+ as an even more refined way to essentially spy on others and verify what they say about themselves.

    We’ve heard so many stories of strife inside the G+ team, including employees actually leaving (so the allegation goes) because they can’t stand working with the people who are hellbent on making G+ into Facebook 2.0.

    One must wonder if Google will get it; their focus on G+, over policing identity, over how people present themselves online, goes entirely against the ethic of “deeds, not vanity”. It shouldn’t matter what your name is, or what persona you choose to present to the Internet. Only what you create. Your ideas, your content. Nobody cares if you’re John Smith14828 (already a huge problem on G+, actually – so many identical “real names”). People who have outgrown obsessing over the socializing of others don’t care if the next great idea comes from someone named “Stone Kitten.” It’s the idea that counts.

    • Actually, I’m not sure where you’re looking, but I don’t see any of what you’re talking about.

      G+ is Google 2.0. It’s what every other Google service will tie in to. Things like Search, Maps, Latitude, Gmail, Blogspot used to be products – Google is turning them into features. Of Google+.

      Naturally there are going to be upsets over at Google. There will be people who have poured their heart and soul into these products, and now they’re going to be swallowed up in the G+ juggernaut. Larry Page (I think) was the one who basically told Google that their bonuses would be directly tied to Google’s success as a social company (and by extension, G+). You can imagine how that must have upset quite a few people too.

      And as far as identity goes, there was that time when they said they would only allow real names. And then they backpedaled, and allowed pseudonyms back into G+. I follow at least 50 people that don’t use their real names or faces, and have no personally identifying information anywhere on the service. They realised that there are good reasons why people might not want to go by their real names on the service – it doesn’t make their identity any less real, and they took a big step in acknowledging it.

      • If you don’t know what he’s talking about, I’ll back him up. G+ have been desperately trying to be facebook ever since they started, and instead of using the immense opportunity they’ve had to do something better, their ID scandal is just a big warning light that they haven’t understood what people want, anymore than facebook’s blunderings.

        I’m glad for you that you haven’t been affected by the ID witchhunt, but I can tell you that you get a very different outlook on G+ when you’ve seen your friends and friends of friends getting banned every week since it launched. I’ll hazard a guess that you haven’t logged on google every day with the thought “is this the day they’ll find me?”, will I bet met with a ban notice? (I’ll avoid any tasteless analogies to historic events here).
        Their relentless persecution hasn’t stopped yet, even after their ‘backpedal’ as you call it, they’ve kept on banning people. I have yet to see any admission on Google’s part that they were wrong, I’ve yet to see a blanket statement that pseudonyms are allowed in their terms of use, or seen any outreach or apology to the thousands of people they deemed unsuitable for their social network. I submit to you that the reason your at least 50 people haven’t been kicked off is because they’ve stayed below the radar and they weren’t reported.

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