I am not the typical facebook user. From the day of my registration I considered facebook to be a public space. This means that I accept friend requests from anyone who does not trigger my spammer detector. That policy has gathered me some real friends whom I would not otherwise have met. Unfortunately the continual changes Facebook keeps making result in the site being less and less useful to me. I enjoy reading the things that people are intentionally posting about their lives and their thoughts. Instead my stream is full of things my friends read, updates any time someone friends another person, updates on games played, and comments that one of my friends made to someone I have never met. These sorts of updates would actually help me feel connected if I were only trying to keep in touch with 20-50 people I’ve met in real life. That’s not how I want to use facebook. Unfortunately every time I figure out how to filter my facebook stream, facebook changes again.
I still use facebook. I skim through my news stream once per day or so, but I miss a lot. Often I miss things that I would really like to know about while being bombarded with things about which I don’t care. Many times I see happy news, or sad news, and I would like to respond briefly with congratulations or sympathies. I do want to use facebook for me to connect with people. Unfortunately facebook wants to use my response to connect my friends with advertisments. Some of the people with whom I am facebook friends are very private people. They are extremely selective about who they let see information online. If I respond to a private person’s birth announcement, then that response is broadcast to all the writers, fans, and business contacts that I’ve also friended. Broadcasting a private announcement in this way would be extremely discourteous of me, even if I do it by accident. I know there is a setting to prevent this. I’ve toggled that setting. However facebook will change again and they may untoggle or change the way that settings are interpreted. The only way I can protect the privacy of my friends is not to answer them on facebook. This makes me sad. Because I’d dearly love to have these little conversational interactions which are the online equivalent of bumping into someone at the grocery store.
For the big things, with close friends, I use other means (like email) to respond to their announcements. For the little things, I just have to smile or sympathize silently. I do make good use of the facebook Thumbs Up button. It is a tiny way for me to cheer without also broadcasting that I’ve done so. Facebook still is useful to me, but I am always aware that to facebook I am a commodity, not a customer.