June 27, 2007
The Downward Spiral of Facebook: A Rant
By Alex Peak
I am currently annoyed at Facebook. I shall enumerate the reasons below.
Facebook used to be the perfect networking website for campus groups, such as my group, the College Libertarians of Towson (CLT).
Whenever we were holding an event on campus, we would invite the people we believed to be interested based on what they had written in their Facebook profiles.
For example, when we showed the documentary Grass (1999) about America’s insane war on marijuana, I invited everyone who mentioned “drugs,” “pot,” “420,” and whatever other drug-related bullshit they may have had. I also invited everyone who was in a drug legalisation-related Facebook group from my university.
I likewise invited all of the persons I know who use drugs, regardless of whether they listed anything about it in their profiles or not.
And of course I invited libertarians, and those I know in the Towson Campus Greens.
I was able to do this because invitations were not limited to friends.
In addition to that, I invited everyone who mentioned that they liked documentaries in their profile. I invited those who majored in electronic media & film (EMF) or political science. For surely, they’d be interested in this.
We had, if I recall correctly, between thirty and forty people show up for this event, and I’m convinced that that had more to do with Facebook than with the flyers I posted around campus, which I bet most people did not even notice.
Here’s another example.
When we had Dr. Tibor R. Machan, a libertarian philosopher, come to campus, we invited everyone who was a philosophy major. I mean, after all, that was our target audience. We also invited political science majors. And of course libertarians.
We were able to do this because we were not limited to simply inviting friends.
And our turn-out? If I recall correctly, I think we had 60 people.
This was our biggest event in our history, and again, I don’t think it was my wonderful flyers that did it. I think it was Facebook, the great networking website.
But that has all changed.
Now, let me be very clear: I do not believe that what I used to do could be considered spam. Spam is indiscriminate. I was targeting a specific audience, just like any advertiser.
I often chose not to invite certain members of my friends list because I knew they had no interest.
But then Facebook changed their system, making it only possible to invite “friends” to events.
And you know what happened? The amount of spam I received increased!
It’s easy to understand why.
When I was advertising for the screening of the documentary Voices from the New American Schoolhouse, it was my intention to invite education majors, EMF majors, and political science majors. Instead, I invited everyone on my friends list.
When I was advertising for the screening of the documentary Michael and Me by Larry Elder, I intended to invite everyone who mentioned gun rights or the second amendment in their profiles. I intended to invite all political science majors. I intended to invite all libertarians and Republicans. And because the guest speaker, Mr. Kenneth V. F. Blanchard (author of Black Man With a Gun was our guest speaker, I intended to invite everyone in the Black Student Union.
Instead, I invited everyone on my friends list.
Since Facebook made its change, our events have been smaller. Since Facebook made its change, spam has increased.
I now receive loads of spam from people advertising events I have no intention to attend, even events in other states.
Facebook used to allow me to invite people to groups who were not my “friends.” In fact, I made friends this way, by receiving invitations to groups and giving invitations to others.
I would invite people who list themselves as libertarian on Facebook to the CLT Facebook group. Now, I can’t.
It was after Facebook made its change that I found myself getting invited to more groups that I held no interest in, invitations from “friends,” whereas previously I rarely received any invitations to groups I held no interest in.
Once again, we see spam rise, rather than fall, in response to Facebook’s decision. And we can understand, logically, why this is so: if people can’t increase their group size by targeting a specific audience who are interested, they resort to inviting people indiscriminately from their friends list.
Facebook has now limited the number of groups one may join to 200. There are a number of groups I would like to join, but now cannot, that is unless I choose to exit 139-plus other groups.
Facebook only allows one group to host per Facebook Event. So, despite the fact that the screening of Michael and Me was co-hosted by the CLT and the Towson University College Republicans, only the CLT members could be insta-invited. Despite the fact that the screening of Voices from the New American Schoolhouse was co-hosted by the CLT and the Towson Campus Greens, only the CLT could be insta-invited.
The descriptions for causes on the new Facebook Causes application are limited to 2,000 characters. Y’know, sometimes that just isn’t enough.
You can only invite 20 persons to a cause in a single day, and of course they all have to be your friend.
I’ve just learned that there is a limit to the number of friends I can tag in a note.
I’m trying to inform friends that there are two tickets I my friend can sell them to a Marilyn Manson/Slayer concert. I tagged every friend who listed Slayer in his or her profile under music (but not under television, as there are a bunch of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans who might not be that interested). I tagged every friend that had Marilyn Manson listed in his or her profile. I was in the process of listing people that had “metal” in their profiles under music (excluding the one person who said in his music section specifically that metal was one of the genres he didn’t like), and what happens? I reach my tag limit.
Facebook used to be the perfect networking website. Over the past year, it has worked diligently to make itself less and less useful for that purpose.
Alex Peak is a member of the College Libertarians at Towson.
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