I’m no fan of Facebook, I think that’s clear by now; what’s funny is that at one time, I was a fan.

There was a point in time where Facebook was the cool place to be.  It was vastly superior to MySpace. It was clean, straightforward and untarnished…just a place to interact with friends and family.  There were no stupid games, there were no irrelevant ads, there was no constant barrage of invites to apps, events and other garbage, it was simply a place to interact with friends.  It was simple…it was good.

This image is real by the way.

 

Then came the changes.

Facebook began to slowly change the agreement we had with it.  What started as something that felt like ours slowly became theirs.

The privacy policy got longer and more complex.  Interface changes were rolled out one-by-one.  Features got added by the baker’s dozen.  Privacy settings got changed without our permission.  People hated each change, they bitched and moaned, and with only a few exceptions Facebook ignored them.  The changes came so regularly that eventually we became desensitized to it, collectively we sank into a passive acceptance, willing to trade the inconveniences for the common meeting space.

To be clear, I live in public. My issue is that the changes generally have the most dramatic affect on the people least likely to know about them or understand the implications.  In this way Facebook takes advantage of its users.

Growth

As the user base grew, Facebook became a necessity, one where the choice to leave became a choice to leave your friends instead of leaving the site.   As Facebook grew, it added features in an attempt to branch out beyond friends connecting with friends.  Many of these features were “borrowed” from other companies and sites that were gaining traction.

Newsfeed, now a standard social media feature was, at the time, a direct copy of Twitter.  Facebook Places and the check in feature was conveniently released as Foursquare and Gowalla were gaining traction.  Deals came on the heels of Groupon and LivingSocial.  Facebook entered the territory of “me-too!”

Money, Privacy, and Mistakes

While Zuckerberg was still at Harvard during the early days of The Facebook, the following conversation took place:

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard

Zuck: Just ask.

Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS

[Redacted Friend's Name]: What? How’d you manage that one? 

Zuck: People just submitted it.Zuck: I don’t know why.

Zuck: They “trust me”

Zuck: Dumb fucks.

When asked about this later on, the Facebook board had this to say:

“He is a brilliant individual who, like all of us, has made mistakes.”

In an attempt to break into advertising, Facebook launched Beacon, and in response to this gross overstep, Facebook was hit with a class action suit…Zuck calls it a “mistake.”

Facebook changes privacy settings to enable “instant personalization,” another privacy gaffe is exposed as user data is shared without permission…another mistake.

How many of these privacy “mistakes” are really mistakes when the company making these mistakes is led by a socially awkward CEO who admittedly doesn’t believe in the notion of privacy?

The truth is that the erosion of our privacy through real name policies, constant changes in terms and the push for openness is about money, pure and simple.  This is why we have Frictionless sharing apps…more data = more ad revenue.

Trust and endorsement

I’ll keep using Facebook because frankly, I have to.  Too many of my friends are there, and working in Social Business it would be foolish to ignore the enormous user base that spends hours upon hours on the site.  It is a necessary evil.

When it comes to my money however, I choose to invest in companies I believe in, trust and like.  I don’t believe in, trust or like Facebook.  It is a shady organization that has perennially breached my trust and makes mediocre products. Facebook makes unremarkable products for the masses; they are the Microsoft of Social.

I’m unconvinced that they can become profitable enough to justify their absurd valuation but even if they do I wouldn’t invest a dime.  I have to go with my conscience, and investing even a dime in Facebook would violate my conscience.