Matter Chatter

Facebook, You Got Your Own Thing Going

“I hate turkeys. If you go to the grocery store and you stand in front of the lunch section too long, you start to get pissed off at turkeys. You see, like, turkey ham, turkey pastrami, turkey bologna… Somebody needs to tell the turkeys, “Man, just be yourself!””

That’s right, I just opened a post with Mitch Hedberg. And I’ll tell you why. Today I was reading about the official launch of Facebook’s @Mentions, and the quote immediately came to mind. In fact, I’ve thought of the same joke several times over the past couple of years as Facebook has (shamelessly?) scrambled to hijack some of Twitter’s monumental success. It’s not like Facebook is desperate for users. They’ve long been one of the front-runners in the social platform marathon, but their repeated attempts to encompass the essence of Twitter have always felt like the bitter behavior of the cool guy who got turned down for a date for the very first time.

This move, however, is considered by some to be an extremely smart maneuver. If Facebook is truly looking to compete with Twitter in the long term, they’ll have to continue to provide simple and efficient ways to share thoughts and information. That’s the foundation on which Twitter was built – the ability to share, openly, with friends, family AND total strangers – a function that Facebook developers have thwarted, until recently, in the interests of users’ privacy. It seems that if Facebook really wants to overpower their sprightly frenemy, they need to take the concept of “introduction” to the next level. Mashable’s own Soren Gordhamer recently wrote:

“Twitter could be seen as one massive introduction system, where users recommend other users both through retweeting and mentioning the person using the @username option.”

So is that what’s coming next? Will Facebook soon offer the ability to quickly and easily share friends’ status updates with a mere couple of keystrokes? Will wall posts be forced into shorter, more concise phrases? Will information sharing be taken to yet another new level? Not only will you be exposed to the rapid updates from friends and strangers, you’ll be able to spread their personal thoughts across the platform. You can already seek out new acquaintances based on what they’re thinking this very minute. The total, wide-sweeping access is incredible. And here I’m suddenly remembering why I joined Facebook in the first place back in 2002.

Facebook was private. It was understated and simple. If I had something to share, I could do so with the people I had named as my friends. Yes, Facebook does continue to provide privacy tools – if you don’t want your information out there, you don’t have to let it go. But I have to wonder when it will all collapse upon itself. Will our social minds expand until they boil over? Will we return to a time when we no longer need strangers to hear what we’re thinking, what we’re doing, what we’re buying, eating, drinking, watching? And if we do, what will be there to support our once-again private personas?

There’s nothing wrong with innovation, or keeping up with the competition. But just as we advise clients to only use the tools that work for them, shouldn’t our tools sometimes stick to what they do (did) best? Mitch gave turkeys some good advice, I think. “I already like you little brother. You do not need to emulate the other animals. You got your own thing going.”