As a Facebook user, I’m pretty sick of Facebook trying to reinvigorate itself by expanding into every possible facet of my life. If they had it their way, every moment of my life (waking or otherwise) would be spent, not just on, but through Facebook. But that’s not how I want to play it. Facebook serves a very specific, finite function in my life, and that’s how I want it to stay.
From day one, Facebook has constantly been expanding its functionality to better represent the lives of their users, and better allow those users to share every aspect of their lives with their “friends” and the world. However, ever since it came to the forefront of the global consciousness as the quintessential “social network” (in around 2008-9, in my opinion), it has slowly but swiftly tried to envelop much more than it ever did before. Facebook doesn’t want to just be the place where you hang out with old friends and brag about your latest life achievements. It wants to be so much more: a news site, a blog, a product review site, a gaming platform, a musical hub, a photo sharing site, a calendar, an email system, an instant messaging platform, a feedback form, a video-sharing site….everything, EVERYTHING!!!
But I don’t want them to be. Not for me at least. I don’t want Facebook to be my all-encompassing internet information hub, or even just my social media hub. And it’s not because I’m concerned about privacy (although I am concerned), and it’s not because I don’t like my information being used for ads, either to select them or make them (although I don’t like that either!). No, it’s because as a social animal, I adapt to my environment. I am not all things to all people. I may be many things to many different people, but I’m never all of them at once, to everyone at once.
Now you may be saying “But what about lists? You can use them to only show certain things to certain people.” To which I respond: “It’s an imperfect solution, on multiple levels, some of which make it totally useless. But I highly suggest you use them nonetheless.”
What I’d rather is to have separate, specialised sites where I can be each different me. A social network for each social outlet. Why? Well, let’s face it: Facebook may do a lot of things, but they do most of them pretty badly. Their event system is fairly broken, their music and video platforms are both rubbish, and all their interest databasing (movies, books, bands etc.) are flat and meaningless.
By using sites that are focused on specific topics ,like Goodreads or SoundCloud, or based around particular communication styles, like Twitter, the user experience is greatly enhanced because the site can dedicate itself to mastering what it offers. Facebook would never bother to put in the time or effort needed to develop a book database as comprehensive as Goodread’s has. The only reason it’s implemented hashtagging and Gif support is because of their popularity on Twitter & Tumblr respectively.
This isn’t the only advantage either. Facebook’s audience is very broad; It theoretically covers everyone in the world. Specialised sites attract particular niche groups who are more interested in a particular topic. Using these sites means you’re more likely to find someone whom your communications resonate with, so that’s you’re not just talking into the void. Like if you post a fanfic on your Facebook, but none of your friends are fans of Doctor Who or Adventure Time, well…who’s going to read it? Sure, there are tonnes of people on Facebook who like those things, but how in the world are they ever going to find you? If you posted it on Tumblr or deviantART, interested people would find it immediately.
And even if someone could find you on Facebook, would you really want them to? The person you are on Facebook is the genuine, real-world you. Okay, maybe you’re not very genuine on Facebook, but that’s still your real name, and a picture of you. Or at least, that’s what Facebook wants. On Facebook, you have no choice but to be yourself. No matter where you go on the site, you name is emblazoned next to anything you may post. On other sites, you can have varying degrees of anonymity. Depending on your standpoint, this may or may not sound like a good thing. For better or worse, being anonymous frees you up to be whoever you really are, or whoever you aspire to be. People who might usually be embarrassed by their love of The Lizzie Bennett Diaries or Veronica Mars can fearlessly express their feelings without a care.
“But Nitemice,” I hear you cry, “I don’t know any other websites! Facebook’s all I’ve ever known!” Well fear not, poor uninformed child, for I will enlighten you through my own personal experience. These are the sites I uses, and how I use them:
- Facebook to communicate with real-world friends and acquaintances. I use it to chat and share things with them, see what they're up to, maybe organise an outing with them. I'm happy to share life events and real-world things that I've done there, including photos, but that's really all I want it to do. I also have a Nitemice Facebook page, but I don't really use it for much besides syndicating these blog posts.
- Tumblr for discussing & interacting with randoms about topics of interest to me. This could be anything from Doctor Who to coding conventions, from the content of my latest blog to the movies and TV shows I've been watching recently. It's not a place where I share life stuff, like I might on Facebook, but other than that I sort of treat them similarly.
- Steam has a social network system which I use to connect with people (who I may not actually know, but mostly I do) to play PC games with/against. I like posting screenshots and there are game-specific forums to discuss and share gaming stuff, but mostly I keep to myself outside of a game.
- Goodreads is great for tracking and sharing what I'm reading, what I want to read, what I've read and (if I could be bothered) what books I own. I occasionally communicating with others in the community whom share my interest in books by posting reviews or comments in the forums.
- Twitter if I'm announcing things to the world, like a new blog post, or to get a drip-by-drip stream of what's going on out on the web.
- Miiverse is a clunky, Nintendo-run social network that feels a bit like a cross between Steam & Twitter. I use it on my 3DS to post my thoughts on whatever games I'm playing, although it's also accessible from a WiiU, or anything with a web browser. You can post a message up to 200 characters, or a little hand drawn picture, reminiscent of Pictochat on the original DS's. For some games, you can even post screenshots, captured by pausing the game at just the right moment and swapping to the Miiverse app. You can only join if you've got a recent Nintendo device, but if you don't then why would you want to?
- deviantART for sharing my art and following artists I like (and some that I personally know) and art that interests me.
- SoundCloud is great for following and listening to music by my favourite artists and bands. It also allows you to share your likes with others, or share your own creations, be them original music or remixes.
- alternativeTo for tracking and sharing software/apps/games that I like or find handy. It's also extremely useful for finding a program that does just what you need, or to replace a program that isn't that good, based on the opinions of other users of the site.
And really, this is just a very limited sample of the sites out there that you could be using to express and expand your many selves out on the world wide web. There are various big names that I’ve missed because I don’t really use them, like Flickr, Reddit, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pintrest, and Twitch. You don’t have to abandon Facebook, you just have to realise it not the only site out there, and it’s definitely not the best!
So, what’s your opinion? Do you use various social networks, or just Facebook? How do you find it? Do you use it a lot, or just occasionally? As always, if you have something to say, like a response to my blog or a suggested blog topic, feel free to tell me in the comments below, using the contact page, or on Facebook.
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