Last month, two interesting pieces of data came out about internet giant Facebook. The first was that it surpassed 500,000,000 subscribers. Half-a-billion. Holy crap. That’s a lot of people. That is >7% of the world’s population, and nearly a third of the people estimated to have access to the internet. Talk about market-share.
You’d think that’d be all good news for the social-networking king, but the other thing I saw was an article in the NYT that cited a study by ForeSee Results (out of the University of Michigan) that produces the American Customer Satisfaction Index, which evaluates products and services in the US. This report included social networking sites for the first time in their data – and guess who was at the bottom? That’s right. Facebook. Right there with airlines and cable companies. People LOVE their insurance companies compared to Facebook. I gotta admit, I didn't see that one coming.
And certainly, you see it all over – on Twitter and bafflingly on Facebook itself – folks sounding off about how much they hate Facebook. That it’s trying to take over the world. That it’s trying to steal their information and sell it to nefarious conglomerates. I find this crazy.
Crazy because the last time I looked, no one held a gun to your head and MADE you sign up for Facebook. And how much is Facebook asking you to pay to use it? Oh, that’s right, nothing. And does Facebook require that you post and include personal information? Nope. I will admit that I found their old “what’s private and what’s not” to be a little confusing, but their most recent one is clear and straightforward. You can tailor content (I hid peoples’ Farmville updates a LONG time ago) and their ads are pretty unobtrusive as sidebar ads go (though I do really wonder if certain games have been banned in Utah…).
Some of the frustration seems to be that people feel that you HAVE to be on Facebook. And I understand that right now, if you want to do the whole social-network thing, there’s no great alternative — though bless their not-evil hearts, Google keeps trying. And if the level of dissatisfaction in the ACSI report is true, they probably should keep trying, because Facebook could be ripe for a challenger. Maybe that’s what all the frustration is about — people really want to feel like they have a choice. Well, you could always use MySpace. Oh, that's right, MySpace blows and is creepy.
There IS a choice though and a simple way to express your disdain for Facebook – don’t use it. Delete your account or don’t ever start one. I know I know… if someone does that, how could they ever keep track of the people in their lives? I suppose they'd have to think back to those crazy days way back in 2004 and use things like e-mail and phones. I bet those old-fangled ways would still work, though it probably means you’d lose track of that old classmate from high school calculus class again.