Does this look like a face you can trust?

Does this look like a face you can trust?

If you’ve been following the news lately, you might have heard about the recent controversy involving a change in Facebook’s terms of service.  Apparently everything you post to the site somehow becomes their property and they can use it any way they please.  Of course this has created a shitstorm among people who may already be a little too self conscious about their privacy.  Personally, I don’t care too much and feel that people are probably just overreacting.  I haven’t really followed the details of this story and I actually don’t even intend to write about this specific incident.  In fact, Facebook has already addressed it on their site.  Rather, the backlash against Facebook has caused me to wonder whether in fact we’re getting tired of the service.  When I look at my own Facebook use, I find that the site that I once couldn’t do without is actually becoming an annoyance.

When Facebook first started getting big, it was lauded for its simplicity.  While Myspace was full of attention whores, pedophiles, and an unlimited ability to make your profile as annoying as possible, Facebook’s professional look was a big attraction.  However, as the site grew, this began to change.  Soon applications flooded Facebook and we were instantly annoyed by invitations to add these useless tools.  Then the news feed came around.  Everyone bitched for a few weeks then became rediculously addicted to it.  We began to learn so much information about each other that we barely had to pick up a phone or send an instant message to catch up with our friends.  However, while I was one who initially liked the news feed, I can’t help but notice that none of the information that comes up anymore is actually something I want to know.

In fact, it seems Facebook in general is just getting sloppy.  It’s not at the levels of Myspace, but I find that I’m forced to sift through so much unncessary information that by the time I get to something interesting (“Oh wow, so and so is hosting a fun party”), I just don’t care anymore.  Now, with the insanely annoying chain letter style notes, the news feed has been filled with 25 things we probably don’t give a shit about.  While facebook has the ability to combine blogging, status updates, picture sharing, and a variety of other applications, it’s just getting too cluttered.  While it sounds weird, I’m almost at a point where I’d rather check 5 different blogs, log on to services like twitter, and scout individual youtube pages for videos.  At least then I know that I’m getting information that I really want to see.

Take Twitter for example.  I just hopped on the bandwagon this week and I’m already realizing that I like it more than facebook.  The concept is simple: A status update in 140 characters.  It’s similar to the FB status update, but at the same time its more streamlined and usually contains better content.  For example, companies, sports teams, celebrities, and even CNN post breaking news and information.  Some users simply post links.  Others like to find witty quotes.  The best users aren’t the ones who are actually telling you what they’re doing because frankly most people that don’t care that you “can’t wait till finals are over!!!”  On Twitter, I can choose to follow the updates that I want, which means theres a lot less junk and useless information than what I get from my 400 “friends” on a daily basis.  Instead, I get breaking news from my favorite sports teams, hilarious personal updates from Shaq, and useful links from friends.  Other applications like Google Reader make it easy to follow any blogs that post information relevant to your interests.  All of this means that you’re actually in better control of the information that you actually care about.

One of the problems is that Facebook has just gone into information overload.  We’re hit with so much information that it starts to become useless.  In fact, we start to get annoyed by people that we’re actually friendly with.  We receive so much information about them that we  get sick of hearing about them.  Maybe we would have picked up the phone or tried to write an e-mail, but I already know their favorite childhood memories, relationship problems, and dramatic status updates.  I don’t want to insult anyone with these comments, because there was a time when I truly did like Facebook.  It just seems that the whole thing is getting tired.

A recent Time article mentioned the fact that the baby boomer generation has now flooded Facebook and that the service has lost much of its “cool” factor.  Furthermore, people are actually being eliminated from job contention due to the popularity of the service.  While it’s easy to set privacy settings, it’s also pretty easy to find random pictures of your co-workers doing things that would make Michael Phelps blush.  Now, with this Terms of Service debacle, it seems that people are really starting to question the service.

I’m in no way implying that Facebook is in decline, since the service will continue to grow and probably be bigger than ever in years to come.  What I am saying though is that Facebook is probably losing some of the users who made it what it is today.  Much like Myspace, many of those who hopped on the bandwagon early are being turned off by the clutter, useless information, and ambiguous privacy situations.  I won’t be deleting my account any time soon, but I will most definitely be spending more time using services that provide me with relevant information about the people, things, and ideas that actually matter to me.