Saturday, April 11, 2015

Why I Have Been Unhappy with Facebook of Late

There was a time when tirades against Facebook were a fairly regular feature on this blog. It seemed as if Facebook was consistently making changes that got on my nerves. Fortunately it was about the time that Facebook introduced the single column timeline that Facebook became, well, less annoying. They stopped continuously changing things around and wreaking havoc with everything from the news feed to the profile. Unfortunately it was about four weeks ago that Facebook retuned to its evil old self and began doing things that annoy me once more. I have once more concluded that Facebook's slogan must be, "If it ain't broke, then break it."

The first thing I noticed was that the friends' box on my profile had changed dramatically. For about the past two years the friends' box on my profile has been fairly consistent in displaying those friends with whom I interact the most. It was four weeks ago that my friends' box suddenly started displaying random friends, most of whom I rarely interact with on Facebook. In fact, at times it seems almost as if the friends' box was set to display those friends with whom I interact the least.

Now this was only a very minor annoyance in some respects. I suppose in many ways it is not that important that the friends in the friends' box on my profile are the ones with whom I interact the most. That having been said, it was handy in that I could visit my profile and from there visit the profiles of  my closest friends by just clicking on their picture in the friends' box. Over the years I have learned it is a good idea to visit one's friends' profiles on Facebook once in a while as Facebook does have a nasty habit of not displaying all of their posts in the news feed. Indeed, Facebook sometimes doesn't even display all of their posts in the feeds for lists!

That brings to me a much more serious problem that developed about the same time. Namely, my news feed was thrown into utter chaos. Instead of displaying posts from those friends with whom I regularly interact in the Top Stories feed, it would display posts from friends with whom I rarely interact (one time it even displayed almost nothing but posts from pages). Worse yet, those posts might be well over 24 hours old. My news feed has improved quite a bit since that time. Now the Top Stories feed generally displays posts from friends with whom I regularly interact, but the posts may still be days old. It seems I am having to rely on the feeds from my various lists more than ever.

Of course, as annoying as all of this has been for me, I have to admit it could be much, much worse. A friend and fellow blogger has a screen name that she has used for literally years. In fact, many people know her best by that name, even those who know her given name. Naturally she used her screen name for her Facebook profile. Unfortunately Facebook recently decided that she had to use her legal name, despite the fact that she has used her screen name for years and many people only know her by that name. I told her that Facebook telling her that she could not use her screen name would be something like Universal in the Sixties suddenly telling John Wayne that they would only credit him in films as "Marion Morrisson" from there on out! She has sent several requests to Facebook that she be allowed to use her screen name again, but sadly (and not unsurprisingly) she has received no response from them. Here I have to point  out that I have also complained about the friends' box on my profile and my news feed and both are still broken.

Now I know that there are those who will claim that as Facebook is free people have no reason to complain about it. To me this simply isn't a valid argument. For one thing, Facebook is supported by advertising, so that any time one buys products or services from companies that advertise on the site (which is almost everyone these days), he or she is more or less paying for Facebook. For another thing, using this reasoning  no one would have the right to ever complain about broadcast network television. After all, broadcast network television can be picked up with a common, everyday television aerial, so that it is effectively "free" as well.

I also realise that there are those who will point out that one can always simply delete his or her Facebook profile. While I admit that this sounds very appealing to me (and I have been very tempted to do so from time to time), the sad fact is that I have a large number of friends and relatives for whom Facebook is their primary means of keeping in touch with people, including me. And as much as I would like these friends and relatives to simply move to another social network, they don't seem to want to do so. Sadly, then, if I want to stay in touch with many of my friends and relatives on a regular basis, then I also have to keep my Facebook account.

Of course, the fact that Facebook has become the dominant means of staying in touch with friends and relatives for many makes Facebook's treatment of its users even worse. While there are other social media sites that are often unresponsive to the needs and wants of their users (Twitter can be fairly bad about it as well), Facebook is notorious for its lack of any real customer service. It's not simply a case of not responding to complaints as it is that Facebook seems to ignore any problems its users might have with the site and when they do fix things it takes them months to do so. It should come as no surprise that last year (and the past several years I do believe) Facebook has ranked as the most hated social media company on the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

For the time being it seems possible that Facebook will continue to be able to get away with their poor customer service. After all, they are the largest social media site in the world and there are many who will continue to use it even if they don't particularly like doing so. That having been said, it seems to me that if Facebook does not improve both their site and their customer service, then they could eventually go the way of MySpace. It might take literally years, but I can't see any company that consistently ranks as "the Most Hated" in its category surviving forever. I am hoping that Facebook will choose improving its customer service over hurling itself headlong towards extinction.

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