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.