Sorry Facebook–MySpace Had It Right From The Beginning

Nothing is easier than self-deceit.

- Demosthenes

Last week I wrote a post that stated Facebook had no long-term direction. Boy was I wrong. The F8 keynote address made it obvious that they have a very clear vision…they want to know everything about everything you do.

They want to seamlessly allow you to share your entire life with your friends. No effort required on your part. Just install the right apps to your Facebook account, and you can share everything you do real time, while also automatically curating the details of your life for later in Timeline.

Technologically, that’s amazingly cool, but it potentially introduces a huge problem. Real time, seamless information about you being streamed to all of your “friends” means it’s hard to filter anything. Since Facebook is so proud of it’s integration with Spotify to share what music you are listening to, let’s use that as an example.

While Facebook is right that people love to share music with their friends, they’ve neglected to realize that people also love to listen to a lot of music that they don’t want to share with their friends. Do you really want your friends to know that you love that Milli Vanilli song and listen to it first thing every morning? Don’t we all have music that isn’t at all cool, but we love to listen to?

Now…think about that exact situation applied to all the other things Facebook wants to know about you: books, movies, websites, food, (lack of) exercise, etc. Now…think about what it will mean when all of these things are lumped together. I’ll save you the suspense and cut to the chase:

Facebook is slowly but surely taking away its users’ ability to present themselves as they wish to be seen. Instead, Facebook is going to force people to be seen exactly as they are.

Take that in for just a second. The real you is going to be out there for everyone to see. Not the version you’d like to present to people.

The real you.

Now is the time in this post when we’re all going to have to be painfully honest with ourselves. Or if we don’t want to examine ourselves, let’s just consider other people we know.

Doesn’t it seem like a lot of your “friends” who are active Facebook users really just see it as the reality show they will never be cast for?

And doesn’t it seem like many of them are crafting an online versions of themselves you know isn’t 100% accurate (just like people on reality shows)?

Don’t you sometimes wonder if these people even realize that they are misrepresenting themselves?

And when you consider the ones you know really well in real life, doesn’t it seem like the only people they are really fooling about these imaginary fabulous lives are themselves and people who don’t really know them?

What’s going to happen when these uber-active users realize they are no longer able to fool other people about their real selves and are also unable to continue to fool themselves?

What happens when Facebook becomes a reflection of real life instead of a collection of beautiful self-portraits created by master artists? What happens when that mirror of their real lives is held up to Facebook’s users’ faces?

That’s not going to be a completely scary thing for most people, but the fact that it’s being shared with everyone else and that it can’t be turned off will be. Are they going to continue to be so active on Facebook, or are they going to dramatically cut back?

Personally, I’m a big fan of the ability to present yourself as you choose online. It’s why I blog under a domain name that is my name. I control it. It’s why I seldom use curse words on Twitter. I control it. It’s why I’m thankful every person I encountered in my 20s didn’t have a digital camera and a platform to broadcast my behavior to the world.

It’s the reason I basically eliminated my participation on Facebook a while back.

I’m not being critical of people who work hard on Facebook to control their online personas. I know why they do that. I get it. I just don’t think they realize that’s exactly what they are doing; and I don’t think they (or Facebook) realize what’s going to happen when the ability to control that is completely removed.

MySpace did a lot of things wrong, but there’s one thing MySpace got right.

MySpace was about me. On MySpace, we could pretend to like only the coolest music by featuring only the coolest music on our profiles. We could pretend to be way better looking than we really are by sharing only the most flattering photos of ourselves. We could pretend to be popular by becoming friends with people we had no interest in knowing and boost our friend count.

MySpace let us all be fabulous. Or gangsta, intelligent, athletic…whatever we wish we really were.

Facebook is about to take all of that away. And the better they get at representing the real world, the more their users are going to have their images of themselves shattered.

Mark Zuckerberg may have made a very critical mistake when he failed to realize that everyone in the world isn’t a billionaire at 26 with hot chicks and cool friends clamoring to hang out with them, even if that’s what we all secretly wish our lives were like.

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