Seeking Alpha has no shortage of $FB coverage, but this new writeup left me in a particularly contemplative mood.
In “Facebook: The New Face of a Monopoly” Jeffrey Himelson tours the countryside of Facebook’s rapidly growing empire and concludes that it’s moat is unbreachable and that there is no longer any risk of suffering the fate of MySpace. With disruption being the normal state of the universe inhabited by Facebook this assessment may be sanguine, but I’m inclined to agree, albeit from a slightly different perspective. I just cannot see Facebook going the way of MySpace because Facebook does something MySpace never really did: Facebook sometimes makes it’s users angry.
I enjoy Facebook. It often brings me delightful content, and occasionally it shows me stuff I don’t care about. Happy as I am, it turns out not everyone has the same experience.
Apparently some people are put in a state of anger by Facebook, because there are stupid people saying stupid things on Facebook. Their feeds are flush with moronic and bigoted outbursts. This can become so annoying, that a friend of mine suspended her account for a month, just to see what it would be like to eliminate that source of irritation from her life for a little while. She’s back on Facebook now though. It could be that anger is an one button to push in the “variable reward” aspect of habit-formation. If it is, then it must be optional, since Facebook is certainly a habitual thing for me although the platform rarely if ever causes me to become angry.
I believe such an experience does exist on Facebook because I’ve heard it related by more than one person. Facebook makes them angry. Despite having a whole lot in common with my angry friends, my Facebook experience has been completely different. I never see anything that truly annoys me. Then again, I believe my Facebook experience to be quite atypical, as is demonstrated by the nature of my feed whenever fighting breaks out between Israel and Palestine.
If you know anything about Malaysia, you know that the country is staunchly anti-Zionist (and some would way basically anti-Semitic). Every time there is a conflagration between Palestine and Israel, Malaysians (not just the Muslims) take to social media to wage a war of hearts against Israel. Most recently this got to the extent of a “Boycott McDonalds” campaign that was an extension of a campaign to boycott all things Israeli (this campaign was itself an oft cited source of annoyance by those who find themselves in a state of anger because of idiocy they encounter on Facebook).
Funny thing is, I never witnessed such fervour on my feed. In fact, going further back to previous conflicts, I often saw slightly more pro-Israeli voices than I did pro-Palestine voices, though the vast majority of content was analytical or factual rather than blatantly promoting one cause or the other. Somehow the Facebook feed algorithm tweaked my experience to be more balanced. Or it could be that the vast majority of my friends in Malaysia (and Malaysia is the biggest segment of my Facebook friends) aren’t the sort to post/share blatantly biased material. Clearly there is no such thing as a universal experience on Facebook.
In any case, does Facebook make you angry? Does that make you more or less likely to use it? If Coca-Cola ultimately measures itself on “share of throat”, is it possible that Facebook measures itself on “share of mind”? How often are your thoughts and feelings affected by what you saw on Facebook, and I’m talking about the time that you’re not actually looking at any of Facebook’s apps; I’m talking about when you’re walking home, or taking a shower, or at the gym, or chatting with friends? Or dreaming?
Facebook engages with their users on such an emotional level, but furthermore they dare to challenge and go deeper in the emotional spectrum towards anger. They achieve this where the Internet does not because they leverage your social network to bring you dissent that you cannot ignore.
MySpace never did that. Google doesn’t. Noone else does.
Maybe noone else can, not on a global scale anyway.